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Lalit Suri checks in to Great Eastern

Calcutta, Nov. 16: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today 'clinched' the Great Eastern hotel deal by decidingto hand it over to Bharat Hotels.

Hotelier-turned-Rajya Sabha MP Lalit Suri's Bharat Hotels offered to pay Rs 52 crore for the 90 per cent government stake and spend another Rs 120-crore on renovating the 165-year-hotel ' the two principal factors that pushed the decision in its favour.

'We have finally succeeded,' said Bhattacharjee, 'I think the transparent privatisation of Great Eastern will send out a very good signal to investors interested in Bengal. I had told Nirupam (Sen, the industry minister) that we must clinch the issue now or never.'

Sen announced the decision after the cabinet standing committee on industry endorsed the move in a hurriedly convened meeting at Writers' Buildings today.

Approval by the cabinet, due to meet at the end of this month, is now a formality.

Sen's announcement marked the culmination of the Left Front's efforts over 12 years to privatise Great Eastern, overcoming the challenge posed by the heavily unionised hotel employees.

'It wouldn't have been possible had there not been a consensus within the government as well as hotel employees on privatisation. Now we can call it the most successful case of transformation of a sick government undertaking,' Sen said.

'We decided on Bharat Hotels going by the technical and financial bids they submitted,' said the minister.

'Great Eastern will be handed over to them by the end of this month.'

Delhi-based Unitech Group was in the second spot with its offer being Rs 12 crore less than Bharat Hotels. Scandinavian chain Ramuk Scan AB, owned by an NRI, was a poor third with a bid of Rs 9 crore.

Asked if the Left did not keep Suri's past in mind 'once close to the Gandhi-Nehru family, he won the Rajya Sabha seat with BJP support ' Sen said: 'We have made the deal on the basis of his company's performance, its turnover and expertise. It has no relation whatsoever with the person concerned.'

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