• Orient Express looks to make buys

Orient Express Hotels is close to making a couple of single asset acquisitions, CEO Paul White said last week.

The credit crunch has meant some owners are considering offloading assets, he said, as they go through refinancing.

"I don't think there is anything in business fundamentals in Europe that is driving it. That may be the case if things continue the way they are for a year," he said.

Although Orient Express does not have to sell to fund acquisitions, it is itself marketing a couple of assets. "But certain properties are core, not just to earnings but to our culture," said White, making reference to the company's Italian properties in particular.

In the US, the company had been offered an asset by a bank but the main driver for sellers is not solvency but liquidity.

Current trading at the company is tracking slightly ahead of last year although the shoulder months of May/June and October were a challenge for a business like Orient Express focused on leisure travellers.

White described domestic US trading as "a pleasant surprise" although guests were choosing to spend money in their own country rather than travel overseas and this might impact on the Italian properties.

The first quarter net loss was $2.4m against $2.5m last year. Revenue was up 23% and EBITDA from hotels was up 8% to $16.9m.

The company confirmed that there had been no further contact with potential suitor the Tata Group.

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