Soros links with Forte to bid for Ciga hotel group: Negotiations at an advanced stage for an offer of an estimated pounds 275m

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GEORGE SOROS, the New York hedge-fund manager, is joining forces with Forte to bid for Ciga, Europe's largest luxury hotel group. Ciga is the owner of such well-known names as the Danieli and Gritti Palace in Venice, writes Rupert Bruce.

Sources in Italy said the negotiations were at an advanced stage and the Soros-Forte partnership was expected to make a revised offer soon.

Mr Soros is using his flagship Quantum Fund to make the offer - which yesterday's La Repubblica newspaper claimed would be worth 700bn lire (pounds 275m) - to Mediobanca, the Milan merchant bank, and other banks that control the highly indebted Ciga.

'We are negotiating and that is likely to lead to a revised offer and Quantum is involved in the talks,' Richard Power, Forte's communications director, said.

A spokesman for Ciga, which is not directly involved in negotiations, said he hoped a deal would be agreed in time for the extraordinary general meeting of 2 February.

If successful, Forte will manage the hotels, while Quantum will treat them as a long-term property investment.

Peter Hilliar, a BZW hotels analyst, said: 'The key is that Forte gets access to 35 very nice hotels, of which they only want to run 25 or so. . . . They will make money out of this, there are no two ways about it.'

Forte said last October that it had agreed to take over the management of Ciga, paying pounds 33m cash and inserting luxury hotels worth pounds 125m into an operating company in which it would have a majority stake. But Host Marriott of the US started negotiations with a full cash offer, forcing Forte to sweeten its terms.

(Photograph omitted)

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