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Monday, December 24, 2007

London-listed firm may launch REIT here

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels plc (M&C), a London-listed firm which operates more than 112 hotels in over 18 countries, may launch a billion-ringgit property trust in Malaysia comprising local and foreign properties.

M&C may also consider launching the REIT in Singapore or other Asian countries but this will depend on opportunities in the markets, chief operating officer Michael Sengol said.

"A listing in Malaysia is also possible. Options are open and it's a long-term plan. There is nothing concrete yet," Sengol told Business Times in an interview in Kuala Lumpur recently.

M&C, a unit of Singapore's City Developments Ltd (CDL), which is part of billionaire Kwek Leng Beng's Hong Leong group, is one of the largest owned and managed hotel groups in the world.

In Malaysia, it owns the newly refurbished Grand Millennium Hotel (formerly The Regent KL), and Grand Millennium Penang.

According to Sengol, the hotel in Penang may be redeveloped or refurbished in the near future to cater to the lifestyle of travellers.

Next month, M&C will launch Millennium Residence, a 57-storey five-star serviced condominium in Kuala Lumpur, its first in Malaysia.

"We have not stopped venturing here. We are still exploring. Malaysia now contributes a small percentage to group revenue. With further expansions here, we hope contribution would be significant in the near future," Sengol said.

Meanwhile, M&C is planning to develop its no-frills hotel operating business in Malaysia and Asia through Tune Hospitality Investments Dubai, a US$50 million (RM168 million) joint-venture property fund.

Hong Kong-listed City e-Solutions (CES) Ltd, a unit of CDL, and Istithmar PSJC, the investment arm of state-owned Dubai World, will each have a 40 per cent stake in the venture.

The rest will be held by Tune, Malaysia's first no-frills hotel operator.

The fund will be used to develop and own a portfolio of 30 "no-frills" hotels in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines.

By New Straits Times (by Sharen Kaur)

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