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High hopes on partner number four

New Delhi, Sept. 4: Hilton’s marketing arrangement with the Oberoi Group of Hotels marks its fourth foray in India, signalling its deep desire to open a beachhead in the country.

The UK-based hotel chain has had a chequered history in the country ever since the acrimonious breakup of its management contract with Lalit Suri’s Bharat Hotels back in 1997.

Hilton’s blighted record includes a low-key split with actor-turned-hotelier Sanjay Khan’s Golden Palms resort near Bangalore.

“We had a management contract with the Hilton hotel but it did not work out and the desired results were not achieved,” said a senior official of the Lalit Suri-owned Bharat Hotels which has the Intercontinental franchise in Delhi.

“Somehow, these arrangements with Hilton do not work. Even the last breakup of the management contract with Sanjay Khan points to the same problem. However, the marketing alliance with Biki Oberoi could just work because it will be of a different nature,” the official added.

Last year, Hilton International tied up with Morepen Group’s Blue Coast Hotels and Resorts (BCHR) and floated a joint venture called Hospitality Holdings India Limited. Hilton International will hold one-third of the equity in the holding company while the rest will be with Blue Coast Hotels and Resorts.

Today’s deal with the Oberoi group — under which nine properties managed by the East India Hotels will carry the Hilton tag — will not affect the Hilton-Morepen tieup.

Arun Suri, chairman of BCHR, said, “Forming a management alliance is a lot different than floating a joint venture hotel with equity participation. Hilton’s strategic alliance with the Oberoi Group will not affect us in any way.”

Hilton and the Morepen Group plan to develop three hotels at Mumbai, Bangalore and Goa with an investment of Rs 500 crore with the first property slated to be launched in 2005. The three properties include a 175-unit hotel and country club in Mumbai, a 250-room hotel in Bangalore and a 160-room resort in Goa. Earlier, the company also expressed intentions of opening properties in Delhi and Hyderabad.

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