Claridge’s owner is close to loans deal

 
Marion Dakers
THE OWNER of the five-star Claridge’s, Berkeley and Connaught hotels is close to a deal to refinance its £600m debts.

Maybourne Hotel Group is in talks with Westbrook Partners, an American real estate investor, and another unidentified firm over selling a £200m stake in the hotelier.

Maybourne has spent months seeking investors for the refinancing, ahead of the loans’ repayment deadline in December. The existing debt is held by the Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank, which were hit hard by the credit crisis and are taking steps to reduce their exposure to property.

Maybourne shareholder Paddy McKillen has gone to court to try and prevent the banks selling the loans to Ireland’s “bad bank”, the National Asset Management Agency (Nama). He has argued that the loans are performing well, but the association with Nama has dented the firm’s reputation.

There has also been speculation that existing shareholders including McKillen, property tycoon Derek Quinlan and Riverdance co-creators John McColgan and Moya Doherty could inject additional funds into the company themselves.

However, London hotels are seen as trophy assets by foreign investors, and several American and Middle Eastern asset managers are thought to have expressed an interest in a stake in Maybourne. It is not clear what percentage of the firm is available to new investors.

A spokesperson for Maybourne declined to comment, saying: “Our refinancing is in final stages and we are not in a position to comment until it is complete”.

Westbrook did not return calls for comment yesterday.