FRHI may be sold by Middle Eastern owners

Move could pave way for more M&A activity in hospitality sector

Fairmont Ajman opened earlier this year.
Fairmont Ajman opened earlier this year.

The owners of FRHI Hotels & Resorts — a Qatari government fund and Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company — are looking to sell the luxury operator, Wall Street Journal reported.

Sources said the two firms have hired Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley to market the Toronto-based company, whose brands comprise Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel.

FRHI operates 116 hotels with nearly 44,000 rooms in 34 countries. The list includes some historic luxury properties like New York’s Plaza Hotel, the Peace Hotel in Shanghai and the Savoy in London.

One hotel executive estimated that FRHI could fetch up to US $3 billion for the sale of the company. A spokesman for FRHI declined to comment.

FRHI owns some of the more renowned brands in the high-end segment of hospitality. But the company comes on the market at a time when the luxury hotel sector is becoming increasingly competitive.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, which is also owned in part by Kingdom Holdings, is pursuing a rapid expansion plan. Smaller higher-end brands like Auberge Resorts are eying urban locations for the first time. Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. is looking to expand the reach of its Conrad and Waldorf Astoria luxury brands.

A sale of FRHI could give a boost to merger and acquisition activity in the hospitality sector, which has been mostly dormant in recent years.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. said in April it was undergoing a review of strategic alternatives, which many in the market read as a willingness to consider takeover or merger offers for the company.

During an interview with Hotelier Middle East in May, the company announced it would double its Middle East portfolio, and currently has hotels under development in Riyadh, Fujairah, Amman, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and Egypt, among other destinations.

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