MUMBAI (TIP): The embattled Sahara Group has put up for sale the iconic luxury hotels it acquired over the last three years — The Plaza and Dream Downtown in New York and London’s Grosvenor House — with an Arab business family said to have made a £1-billion offer for all of them, according to three people close to the development. The family based in the Middle-East has extensive interests in hospitality and has offered a little over Rs 10,000 crore for the three trophy properties in the “Sahara portfolio” of Aamby Valley Mauritius, said the people cited above. If the deal goes through, Sahara stands to get about Rs 4,000 crore, or almost three times what it invested in the hotels, after repaying its debt to Bank of China of close to $1 billion against the properties. Dealmakers in Europe told ET Sahara would be the only business group globally to have earned that kind of return on investment in hospitality since the 2008 financial crisis.
Subrata Roy, founder and head of Sahara Group, has been in talks with royal and business families in the Middle-East and Europe to sell the hotels for more than two months now, said the people cited above. The UK’s Halkin Investments, which has former Pakistan prime minister Shaukat Aziz on its board, is one of the key advisers to Sahara Group’s Aamby Valley Mauritius. Sahara Group did not respond to emails. Halkin Investment said it “acts for Aamby Valley Mauritius in an occasional and advisory-only capacity”. It did not answer other queries in the email. Sahara needs to repay holders of debentures that the capital market regulator said were sold in violation of rules. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) was backed by the Supreme Court, which asked Sahara to refund the money. Sahara has said it has repaid much of the amount, but the regulator disagrees. The 494-room Grosvenor House, once home to the Duke of Westminster, was purchased by Sahara in 2010 from Royal Bank of Scotland for £470 million, or $726 million.