Tycoon Francis Yeoh sets his sights on UK boutique hotels

Malaysian Chronicle, February 10, 2014

YTL Corp Bhd, which owns Wessex Water Services Ltd in the United Kingdom, is scouting for more assets in the country, sources said.

They said YTL, which is controlled by Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, is eyeing completed luxury boutique hotels there.
“YTL is bullish on its prospects in the UK. It also has the funds and close ties with bankers to expand its business there,” a source told Business Times.

Its subsidiary, YTL Hotels & Properties Sdn Bhd, will be opening Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel, its first hotel in the UK, in the third quarter of this year. It will offer 99 rooms starting from £289 (RM1,572) a night.

YTL Hotels bought the property, which is located at the Unesco World Heritage City of Bath, for around £18 million in 2012. It then invested another £12 million to build a new wing, the Spa Village Bath, and thermal pools.

The hotel is YTL’s third UK asset, besides Wessex Water. YTL Hotels had recently acquired Thermae Development Co Ltd, which holds the licence to operate the Thermae Bath Spa complex, for £12 million.

Mercury Securities head of research Edmund Tham believes that the YTL group will expand its existing businesses in the UK for future gains.

“Just like Genting Bhd, SP Setia Bhd and the Employees Provident Fund, all of them seem to like investing in the UK because of the returns and future prospects.

“Yeoh has developed a high taste and niche for luxury assets and the UK is the right place to accumulate those properties,” he said.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel is the fourth in the YTL Classic Hotel collection after Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands Resort in Pahang and Swatch Art Peace Hotel Shanghai in China.

YTL Hotels also owns Gaya Island Resort in Sabah, Tanjong Jara Resort in Terengganu, five city hotels managed by various Marriott brands, the Muse collection of bespoke properties, Niseko Village in Japan and The Surin in Phuket, Thailand.
Tham said profit contribution from the current UK assets will be huge because of foreign exchange gains.

YTL Hotels executive director Datuk Mark Yeoh Seok Kah said although its investment in Bath is small, the accretive value is positive.

Meanwhile, Majestic Hotel KL sales and marketing director Anna Olsson said YTL Hotels will examine the possibility of further additions to its existing collection.

“YTL Hotels will expand when the opportunity presents itself,” she replied via email. - BT