Brookfield to buy Leela hotels for ₹4,500 crore

India: The deal marks Brookfield Asset Management’s entry into India’s hospitality and boosts Hotel Leelaventure.

According to three people familiar with the development, Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management is close to buying at least four of five luxury hotels and a large land parcel owned by debt-ridden Hotel Leelaventure Ltd for about ₹4,500 crore.

The deal, which is expected to close early next year, will mark Brookfield’s entry into India’s hospitality sector. It will also give a major boost to Hotel Leelaventure, which as of March 2018, had a debt of ₹3,799 crore.

The first person cited earlier, who requested anonymity, said: “The deal is at an advanced stage and is likely to be announced within a month. Brookfield will also buy out the brand ‘Leela’.”

A spokesperson for Hotel Leelaventure said: “The company and the lenders are evaluating various offers, so as to achieve maximization of value for all the stakeholders and there is no binding contract with any investor as on date either for investment in the company or for purchase of company’s assets.”

After the failure of its corporate debt restructuring plan in 2014, the Mumbai-based hospitality company transferred loans from 14 creditors to asset restructuring firm JM Financial ARC (JMARC). In September 2017, it allotted over 160 million shares worth about ₹275 crore to JMARC on conversion of debt to equity. JMARC owns 26% in Hotel Leela Venture.

Gulam Zia, national director, Knight Frank India, a property consultancy firm, said: “To be able to find a big investor would be a big news for the Indian hospitality industry, which has been starving for a good transaction for a long time. Leela has been a great brand and what has been troubling them is lack of capital. If capital infusion happens, then it (Leela hotels) can be a turnaround.”

The second person cited earlier, who also requested anonymity, said: “There have been serious discussions with Brookfield and various stakeholders for a long time now. All stakeholders are keen that the brand and assets remain intact and the portfolio and brand emerges stronger than ever before.”

For Brookfield, the hospitality deal will follow its investments in commercial office, residential assets and infrastructure projects. The third person cited earlier, who also requested anonymity, said: “Brookfield is likely to put up a fresh team to run Leela, but they will not extinguish the brand Leela.”

Brookfield has grown since its first buyout of Unitech Corporate Parks in 2013, building and managing nearly 25 million sq. ft of commercial real estate space.

It has signed some of the biggest real estate deals in India, including acquiring Hiranandani group’s commercial offices for ₹6,700 crore and Essar group’s Equinox commercial complex for ₹2,400 crore.

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