TATA Group shows increased interest in Orient Express Hotels

Hotel Cipriani, Venice (Orient-Express Hotels)

INDIAN Hotels, part of giant group TATA, has restarted efforts to boost its stake in Orient-Express Hotels Ltd., according to a report by Bloomberg.

The Mumbai-based company has approached Orient-Express about a deal, though discussions are at an early stage and may fail to lead to an agreement, the people said, declining to be identified as deliberations are private. Indian Hotels owns 6.9 percent of Hamilton, Bermuda-based Orient-Express, whose market value has jumped 32 percent this year to $1.2 billion.

Indian Hotels, owner of the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, initially paid US$211.3 million for a 10 percent stake in Orient-Express in 2007. Two years later, Indian Hotels said it would be“happy” to boost its investment, though the company is opposed to “hostile moves.” Orient-Express had in September 2007 rejected an approach to pursue strategic discussions from Indian Hotels.

Paul White, the former Orient-Express chief executive officer who rejected Indian Hotels’ approach, resigned from the company’s board in July. Orient-Express owns New York’s 21 Club restaurant and the Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy.

Indian Hotels bought the Ritz-Carlton in Boston in 2007 for $170 million from Millennium Partners and renamed it Taj Boston. In 2005, the company re-entered the New York market after six years with the rights to manage the 201-room Pierre.

The company has 112 hotels and plans to open 12 new resorts this year, according to a December investor presentation. Sahara Group, the Indian owner of assets ranging from TV channels to real estate, bought the Grosvenor House in London’s Mayfair district for US$ 744 million in December 2010, in its first overseas hotel acquisition