• Hotel IPO pandemic spreads across globe

IPO fever appears to have taken hold of the worldwide hotel industry at present. So far this year, hotel companies have announced float plans in the US, India and Dubai.

And companies in other territories, including right across Europe from the UK to Russia, are thought likely to follow suit.

The latest rumours concern the possibility of Loews Hotels, the hotel operator that is a tiny part of its parent conglomerate.

Loews Corporation played down any prospect of holding an IPO or selling its hotel division. In any case, Loews Hotels is a comparatively small concern, generating $350m of sales and net income of $31.2m last year. The hotel operation represents just 2% of its parent group's total turnover.

The start of such rumours is not surprising in the present atmosphere which is reminiscent of 1996. In that year, six companies listed on the London Stock Exchange alone.

But the current trend is far more geographically spread than a decade ago. Hotel Analyst has reported on the plans by both Kingdom Hotel Investments and IFA Hotels & Resorts in Dubai and by Morgans Hotel Group in the US.

Also flagged have been the ongoing rumours relating to Travelodge, Hyatt and Rezidor.

Other notable IPOs are Royal Orchid Hotels in Mumbai, a chain that operates in Bangalore and Mysore. The company wants to open 15 more properties to take its total to 22.

In South Africa, IFA Hotels & Resorts has completed a reverse takeover of Moribo Leisure listed on the Johannesburg exchange. Moribo currently comprises the Zimbali Lodge operated by Sun International.

And in Russia, upscale property investment group Talion is seeking a Moscow listing which will fund a luxury hotel complex in St Petersburg.

Separately in Russia, the former state run tourist agency Intertourist is planning to build-up a chain of up to 10 hotels over the next three to five years. It will then seek a listing. The company, majority owned by Sistema, took its first step last month by agreeing with Moscow's city council to takeover the Pekin Hotel in a $60m deal.

What this all adds up to is convincing evidence of a remarkable boom in the hospitality industry in most parts of the globe. And it reverses the trend for much of the 10 years since 1996 that has seen a succession of privatisations and delistings.

The tastiest morsels are still to come – across the Atlantic Hyatt is keenly awaited and in Europe both Travelodge and Rezidor will attract considerable attention. It remains to be seen if 2006 can match the excitement of a decade ago.

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