Granada clears another hurdle in hotel sale

Granada cleared another hurdle in its protracted sale of Forte's Exclusive hotels yesterday, selling New York's Hotel Plaza Athenee on the Upper East Side to TCC, a privately owned Thai conglomerate that operates the Imperial chain of hotels.

The sale, for pounds 42.5m, brings to pounds 400m the gross value of the Exclusive disposals, which have been achieved at an aggregate premium to book value of around pounds 65m.

Granada also confirmed the completion of the recently announced pounds 90m disposal of two Westbury hotels to Elliott Bernerd's Chelsfield property group.

The sale of the Plaza Athenee follows recent speculation that Granada was having difficulty securing buyers for several former Forte hotels. It recently took the pounds 350m Grosvenor House hotel in London's Park Lane off the market, claiming it could achieve better value for shareholders by keeping the hotel and improving it.

It is also thought the company is struggling to find buyers for two hotels in Italy and another in Paris that would offer enough to match book value. Granada has said it would rather keep hotels than cut prices.

Despite the reported problems, Granada has achieved good prices on some of its disposals, realising a total of pounds 228m for its prestigious George V hotel in Paris, the Hyde Park in London and Barbados's Sandy Lane, well above their combined book value of pounds 189m.

The latest disposal brings to pounds 1.3bn the total raised from asset sales since the pounds 3.9bn takeover of Forte at the beginning of 1996. These include the Welcome Break chain of motorway service stations for pounds 476m, the White Hart chain of hotels for pounds 122m and Granada's stake in Alpha Airports.

Still on the block remain a 68 per cent stake in the Savoy Group, Browns Hotel in London and a handful of hotels as far afield as Warsaw's Hotel Bristol and the King Edward in Toronto.

During the bitter bid battle for control of Forte, Granada said it would raise pounds 1.3bn by September 1997.

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