|By Boonsong Kositchotethana, Bangkok Post, Thailand|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 18, 2004 - Le Meridien, the London-based global hotel group, has revived its Thailand portfolio after a nine-month absence, clinching a deal to run three new major hotel projects in Thailand and Cambodia owned by TCC Property Management Co, the hotel and real estate concern controlled by liquor baron Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.
The accord, signed recently in Bangkok, puts the European chain in charge of managing a 223-room hotel now in the final phase of construction in Siem Reap, a 400-room property in Chiang Mai's city centre and a 350-room hotel on Bangkok's Surawong Road.
That agreement followed on the heels of an April 7 deal in which TCC awarded Le Meridien a 10-year contract to manage the 382-room Hotel Plaza Athenee Bangkok, the sister property to Hotel Plaza Athenee in New York, which the TCC group acquired in the late 1990s.
The accord to manage TCC's Surawong property is in line with Le Meridien 's overall move to rebuild its presence in the Bangkok market after the amicable split last July with President Hotel and Tower (PHT), the Thai property group owned by the Srivikorn family.
PHT has appointed Six Continents Hotels to run its two prime properties at Bangkok's Ratchaprasong intersection. The luxury 381-room property, formerly Le Royal Meridien Bangkok, has now became the InterContinental Bangkok. Le Meridien President will become the Holiday Inn Bangkok in early 2005.
TCC has opted to have Le Meridien run its new properties, rather than its own Imperial brand, to capitalise on Le Meridien's international brand recognition, global marketing power and management expertise, executives said.
Meanwhile, TCC has made it clear that it does not intend to put its 17 existing hotels operated under the umbrella of the Imperial Hotels Group under a different hotel management company.
Executives of both TCC and Le Meridien would not reveal the specific terms of the agreement.
However, Le Meridien executives said the contract runs anywhere from 10 to 20 years and Le Meridien does not have equity participation in the hotels' investment.
TCC chairman Mr Charoen said in a statement that the relationship between TCC and Le Meridien was expanding positively.
"These new hotels will further strengthen Le Meridien's presence in Asia and our relationship with TCC Property Management, who continue to express strong confidence in our brand," said Robert Riley, chief executive officer of Le Meridien.
Le Meridien's global hotel portfolio covers 130 luxury and upscale hotels with a total 34,000 rooms in 56 countries worldwide.
Aside from those owned by TCC, Le Meridien has four properties in its Thai management portfolio: one each in Koh Samui and Phang Nga and two in Phuket.
Le Meridien Angkor is due to open in early September 2004, while Le Meridien Chiang Mai is scheduled to commence operations in the fourth quarter of 2006. Le Meridien Bangkok is slated for opening in the last quarter of 2006.
-----To see more of the Bangkok Post, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.bangkokpost.com
(c) 2004, Bangkok Post, Thailand. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.