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Staff of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel pose in Mumbai in this file photo. Indian Hotels Company Ltd., which owns the Taj Mahal Palace and The Pierre in New York, is offering to buy U.S. luxury hotel chain Orient-Express Hotels. (VIVEK PRAKASH/REUTERS)
Staff of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel pose in Mumbai in this file photo. Indian Hotels Company Ltd., which owns the Taj Mahal Palace and The Pierre in New York, is offering to buy U.S. luxury hotel chain Orient-Express Hotels. (VIVEK PRAKASH/REUTERS)

Orient-Express rejects $1.2-billion offer from Indian Hotels Add to ...

Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. rejected a takeover offer from Indian Hotels Co Ltd., controlled by Tata Group, saying the $1.2-billion (U.S.) bid undervalues the company.

“The Indian Hotels proposal … is deeply unattractive from a financial perspective,” Orient-Express chairman Robert Lovejoy said in a statement.

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“The board believes the current macroeconomic environment, conditions in the luxury hotel business and factors unique to Orient-Express would make this a highly disadvantageous time to sell the company to realize its true value.”

Orient-Express also named John Scott as its chief executive, replacing interim CEO Philip Mengel. Mr. Scott was CEO of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts from 2003 until its sale in 2011.

An Indian Hotels spokesman declined to comment outside regular business hours.

In a letter to Indian Hotels, Mr. Lovejoy said the company made the proposal at a time when the price of Orient-Express shares was significantly depressed.

Shares of Orient-Express, which operates the Hotel Cipriani in Venice and the ‘21’ Club in New York, have fallen nearly 85 per cent from their all-time high of $65.36 in 2007.

Before the Indian Hotels bid was made public, they last traded above the $12.63 offer price in March 2011.

Orient-Express shares fell 12 per cent on Thursday to $10.51, adding to the 7-per-cent decline since the Indian Hotels offer, indicating that investors were not confident that a deal will close.

Indian Hotels, Orient-Express’s second biggest shareholder with a 7-per-cent stake, had offered to form a strategic alliance with the U.S. company in 2007 but was rebuffed.

Dubai-based Jumeirah Group also offered to buy Orient-Express that same year but was turned down.

In late October, Indian Hotels asked to meet with Orient-Express in a letter that indicated the company could be open to raising its offer.

“To date, we have only had access to public information and, as such, our offer was informed only by this limited data,” Indian Hotels vice-chairman R.K. Krishna Kumar wrote in a letter to Mr. Lovejoy.

“To the extent you and your advisers wish to discuss value drivers of which we may not be aware, we would be pleased to engage in a constructive dialogue regarding these issues.”

Indian Hotels went public with its $1.2-billion offer in October after its proposal to buy a significant stake in the company was rejected in August.

Under the proposed deal, Italian group Charme II Fund, managed by Partners SpA and Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, chairman of Italian sports car maker Ferrari and a close friend of Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata, would invest $100-million for a minority stake in the newly combined group.

The Indian hotel chain has bought several overseas properties, including The Pierre in New York, but they have not tended to perform as well as its domestic operations, which include its flagship Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai.

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