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British fund checks in at €200m Nama hotels

The large investment fund is considering several Clarion branded Irish hotels along with the luxury Carton House in Kildare and the Dublin docklands Gibson Hotel and London's Croydon Park.

A portfolio value of €180m to €200m has been suggested.

"The fund already has hotel assets and has indicated that the entire group would be attractive to it," said Frankie Whelehan of Choice Hotels, which runs the portfolio for Nama.

"It hasn't resulted in a bid yet, it's going through due diligence and checking that the figures stack up."

Choice partnered with developers including Paddy Kelly and Harry Crosbie as the operator behind their hotel builds, and now continues to run the eight hotels for Nama.

"Nama drives a hard bargain but it allowed us to survive and I'm grateful for that," he said. "But there were no soft negotiations."

Whelehan would hope to stay involved with any new buyer, and can bring the valuable Clarion franchise to the table. "Whether we're involved or not depends on who buys. We're simply the operator. We drive the operating business as hard as we can. We'd be looking for a partner who would come in and invest in the company and back us in expansion and have involvement in the whole group," he said.

This year, Irish hotel trade has picked up, he says. "Any buyer who comes looking will see 13 months of growth, but still a lot of challenges." He expects revenues to be at €70m for 2012.

"There's a little bit of movement in hotel sales in the €2m-€3m mark," he added. "They are back at being valued on a multiple of earnings rather than what the site is worth. They're priced between 6 and 12 times earnings, depending on hotel type."

Whelehan aims to expand Choice through deals to run hotels under the Clarion brand in Britain and Germany.

Sunday Indo Business