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Malaysian fund joins race for Quinlan's stake

OIL-RICH Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is thought to be interested in buying bank loans associated with Derek Quinlan's stake in the €1.2bn-valued Maybourne hotel group in London, which owns the landmark Claridge's, Connaught and Berkeley hotels.

The investment fund, owned by the Malaysian government, is believed to have approached Nama over buying the loans. Subject to certain conditions, 1MDB could then take a stake in the hotel group if any of the loans turned bad under a debt-for-equity deal.

However, sources have indicated that Nama was initially reluctant to engage with 1MDB despite the size of its coffers. The fund is one of the biggest investment groups in the world with advisers including French billionaire Bernard Arnault. Nama declined to comment.

The fund has already invested in a number of real estate and infrastructure projects around the world, including a $2.5bn joint venture with PetroSaudi and a scheme to create a carbon-neutral city in Malaysia.

The battle for Maybourne Hotels has heated up in recent weeks. The reclusive Barclay brothers, who own the Daily Telegraph, have agreed to buy a 25 per cent stake in the hotels from shareholder Peter Green's Cyprus-based Misland. The billionaire brothers are keen to buy out Mr Quinlan's stake too.

Reports that a deal had been struck at the end of January were downplayed by the Quinlan camp.

It is thought that Mr Quinlan's personal guarantees over some of the borrowings are central to any fresh discussions. Clearing these guarantees would be a major boost for the Swiss-based developer's attempts to refloat his career.

While the Barclays are believed to be in pole position, failure to seal an agreement will open the door for a number of other parties to gatecrash the deal.

It is understood that Qatar Holdings, Singapore investors as well as a Chinese sovereign wealth fund are also in the shake-up for the hotel group. Both outfits are believed to have made approaches to buy the whole company prior to Christmas before the Barclays bought the Misland stake.

Other interested parties are said to include the Sultan of Brunei and billionaire US casino boss Steve Wynn -- who famously stuck his elbow straight through an $80m-valued Picasso painting while showing it to a potential buyer.

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Developer Paddy McKillen is also a major shareholder in the Maybourne Group, holding a near 37 per cent stake. The developer, who recently won his Supreme Court case against Nama over the transfer of €2.1bn in loans, is believed to be unwilling to sell his interest in the group.

Last year, Maybourne investors held talks with two private equity groups, Northwood and Westbrook Partners, about selling a €240m stake in the hotels firm as a refinancing deadline approached. The company has a €800m debt pile, with the Anglo Irish Bank exposure transferred to Nama.

It is not clear what level of haircut was attached to these loans. Nama is believed to have agreed a two-year extension on debt repayments.

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