Accor to boycott Granada auction

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The Independent Online

Accor, the French hotels group which owns the Sofitel and Novotel chains, yesterday said it would not take part in an auction for Granada Compass's Le Méridien brand after talks between the two groups over a sale of the whole hotels portfolio collapsed late on Monday.

Accor, the French hotels group which owns the Sofitel and Novotel chains, yesterday said it would not take part in an auction for Granada Compass's Le Méridien brand after talks between the two groups over a sale of the whole hotels portfolio collapsed late on Monday.

But analysts said it was unlikely that the French group had abandoned entirely its interest in the Le Méridien properties. One said: "It could be that they are planning a deal whereby someone else buys [the hotels] and Accor manages them."

Jean-Marc Espalioux, Accor's chief executive, said the French company did not intend to participate in the auction process, barring "unforeseen developments". He said the rationale for buying the package of Granada Compass hotels, which also includes the Posthouse, Heritage and Signature chains, had been "to take advantage of the diversity of the brands".

Granada Compass opened the bidding for all or part of its hotel assets, which are valued at about £3bn, after its negotiations with Accor foundered. The move is expected to lead to the break-up of the former Forte empire.

A spokesman for RF Hotels, the company created by Rocco Forte following Granada's takeover of the former Forte group in 1996, said Mr Forte "would not be looking to buy [the hotels] back".

Other possible bidders include Hilton, the hotels to gaming group, Bass, which recently sold its brewing unit, and Whitbread, which runs the Marriott and Travel Inn brands in the UK. David Michels, Hilton's chief executive, has confirmed his interest in Le Méridien. Officials at Bass and Whitbread declined to comment.

Granada Compass shares closed down 7.5p at 600p.

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