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Sunday, March 4, 2012

PE investor in Ginger is a Tata Capital firm

This story first appeared in DNA Money edition on Thursday, February 17, 2012.

Indian Hotels Co Ltd (IHCL), the Tata group hospitality flagship, had last March announced Rs320 crore investment by Singapore based private equity firm, Omega TC Holdings Pte Ltd, into its subsidiary Roots Corp Ltd (RCL) that runs the Ginger chain of budget hotels in India.

The IHCL management had then said that Omega TC was chosen after discussions with a few PE players and the investment, which was to be made in various tranches till 2014, included buying out some of the existing investors in RCL.

Curiously, IHCL then was not willing to share any details about the ownership and other information on Omega TC. The IHCL annual report for 2010-11 also has no information about the ownership details of Omega TC.

It now emerges that the Singapore PE is an entity backed by Tata Capital, a Tata group company.

Responding to a DNA query during the third-quarter results about media reports on Tata Capital picking up stake in RCL, Anil P Goel, executive director - finance, IHCL, had said, “Omega TC is actually Tata Capital.” He, however, did not share any details on it.

A request for a meeting with the IHCL management to get a better understanding of the PE firm’s investment in RCL was denied.

Tata Capital, too, when approached, did not offer any comment.

Later responding to a DNA uery, the Tata Group media agency said, “Omega TC Holdings is an investment holding company of the Tata Opportunities Fund LP, a limited partnership fully subscribed by global investors. The Tata Opportunities Fund is one of the private equity funds sponsored by Tata Capital Pte Ltd, Singapore.”

Meanwhile, experts tracking the company development said proper disclosures should have been made about the PE investor into the IHCL subsidiary.

“To what extent is this investment transparent is something I fail to understand. What is its purpose, how was the transaction valued, whether it was done to set a valuation benchmark, or largely to give an exit to existing investors because no other investor is willing to come in, are questions that only the company officials can answer,” said a top official of a leading hotel chain requesting not to be identified.

The PE placement was also being viewed as paving the way for RCL’s initial public offering, which is likely to happen in the next couple of years.

During an IHCL annual general meeting in August 2010, Ratan Tata, chairman, Tata Group had responded to a shareholder query saying, “The Ginger hotel chain would be listed in the next couple of years, depending on a series of circumstances.”

Roots Corporation was set up in 2003 and currently operates 24 Ginger hotels across India. While a significant proportion of the Ginger portfolio is owned, there are a few joint projects like Ginger Rail Yatri Niwas (operated under PPP arrangement) and two management contracts in Manesar and Agartala.

The Ginger pipeline currently comprises 10 hotels under various stages of development including Ginger’s Mumbai debut at Navi Mumbai. These hotels are likely to add another 1,000 guest rooms to the existing portfolio.

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