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    Dec 11, 2015

    Accor buys owner of Raffles Hotel for $4.1 billion

    THE famed Raffles Hotel has changed hands again, with a Paris-based chain the latest to hold the keys to the historic establishment.

    AccorHotels signed a US$2.9 billion (S$4.1 billion) deal yesterday to buy out FRHI Holdings, which owns a string of hotels around the world under the Raffles, Fairmont and Swissotel brands.

    While the deal will allow AccorHotels to add 2,100 rooms to its portfolio here, making it Singapore's biggest operator, it is the Raffles component that is the real jewel.

    The ornate, all-white colonial landmark at New Bridge Road boasts only 103 rooms but its old-world elegance and understated luxury have long resonated with travellers across the world.

    Hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng told The Straits Times that Raffles Hotel will be a "trophy asset" for Accor.

    Julien Naouri, associate director of hotels, Asia Pacific at Savills (Singapore), agreed, noting that the buyout gives Accor a leg up into the posh end of the industry.

    "Accor has been very successful in the economy/midscale segment with their brands Ibis and Mercure but has always been one step behind in the luxury segment (compared with) Four Seasons, Marriott/Starwood, for example," he said.

    But Mr Loh, a director of Unlisted Collection, which owns boutique hotels and restaurants in Singapore, London, Shanghai and Sydney, said the repeated sales of Raffles over the years means "it's just a brand now, just a commodity that people trade".

    It has already changed hands three times in the past 10 years.

    Analysts said yesterday's buyout is unlikely to have a major impact on the hotel industry but it "may encourage more people to visit Singapore through the Accor network", said Robert McIntosh, executive director for CBRE Hotels Asia-Pacific.

    Mr McIntosh added that it could also be an opportune time to "refurbish" Raffles Hotel, which has lost some of its lustre over the years.


    Update: AccorHotels also said on Friday that under the agreement to buy out FRHI Holdings (FRHI), it has a “long-term management contract” for Raffles Hotel and “long-term leases” for the Fairmont and Swissotel brands here.

    But the deal does not change the ownership of the three properties here: Raffles Hotel in Beach Road, the nearby Swissotel The Stamford and Fairmont Singapore.

    In an announcement to the Singapore Exchange on Friday, developer CapitaLand also clarified that the – Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford – are not part of the sale to AccorHotels.