Qatari Investors Behind Ksh4.6 Billion Acquisition Of Crowne Plaza Hotel

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Iconic Multi-Billion Hotels That Have Been Sold To New Owners Since 2020
File image of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Upper Hill, Nairobi. |Photo| Courtesy|

Kasada Hospitality Fund on Wednesday, July 25, 2022, acquired the Crowne Plaza Hotel located in Upper Hill Nairobi. According to a report by Business Daily on July 26, businessman Nazir Ahmed Akbarali sold the establishment for Ksh4.6 billion.

Kasada Hospitality Fund is backed by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

The Qatari investor enters the country’s hospitality industry at a time when a number of big hotels are recovering from the adversities of the Covid-19 pandemic, whereas others have been sold.

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Its acquisition of Crowne Plaza comes at a time when the establishment was in a row with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) over a Ksh228 million tax claim. The taxman made the claim including for transfers made to owners of the hotel, but Akbarali said the payments were Ksh2.2 billion soft loans from friends and family used to build the hotel.

The hotel argued that it is common in the Muslim community for family members and friends to give money to relatives without documentation when supporting their business. However, the tax appeal tribunal stated that KRA was right in claiming the money from the hotel.

Kasada Hospitality Fund now has a share of Kenya’s vibrant hospitality industry. The fund was established in 2018 with the backing of the Qatar Investment Authority and French Group Accor.

It raised $500 million (Ksh60 billion) in April 2019; $350 million (Ksh42 billion) was provided by the Qatar Investment Authority whereas Accor contributed the remaining $150 million (Ksh18 billion).

Olivier Granet, Kasada’s managing partner and CEO, stated that Crowne Plaza will undergo renovation to improve its public areas and environmental performance. He noted that their acquisition of the hotel will revitalise Kenya’s hospitality industry.

Portfolio

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Kasada’s investment portfolio has more than doubled over the last 18 months. The fund has acquired various companies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the company website, their portfolio currently comprises 10 hotels (2,016 keys) and employs over 800 employees.

Apart from Crowne Plaza, other hotels owned by Kasada include; the 414-key Safari Hotels and Conference Centre in Windhoek, Namibia, Umubano Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda, Pullman, Novotel, Ibis Plateau and Ibis Marcory hotels in Abidjan, Ivory Coast; the Pullman, Novotel and Ibis hotels in Dakar, Senegal and the Ibis hotel in Douala, Cameroon among others.

In total, the Qatari fund has 12 properties across eight countries.

Crowne Plaza acquisition

A transaction advisor revealed that the deal to acquire Crowne Plaza Hotel had been on the table since 2020.

“Crowne Plaza was sold but the owners have still not received the payment in full,” the advisor said.

“Plans to sell the hotel have been on the table since 2020. The hotel was struggling with bank debts.”

The hotel which was opened in 2010 operated under the InterContinental Hotels Group. The tycoon later constructed the Crowne Plaza Annexe – a mixed use space offering office space and accommodation in 2017 for Ksh1.1 billion.
The annexe is 15 floors and has a clientele comprising travellers, businesses, and revellers.
According to reports, Akberali had planned to sell the hotel in 2020 but his plans were delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic which ravaged the hospitality industry across the world.
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