Posts profit in Q3 with $17.7-m net earnings

Orient-Express Hotels has remained non-committal about the Tata-owned Indian Hotels’ $1.8-billion bid, at its earnings call on November 1.

The US company posted a profit in the third-quarter ended September 30, with net earnings, in line with analysts estimate, at $17.73 million or $0.17 per share, as compared to a net loss of $49.92 million in the year ago period.

With regards to the Indian conglomerate’s bid, the Board of Directors of the luxury hotelier Orient-Express Hotels has simply noted in a statement that it “is evaluating the proposal in consultation with its financial and legal advisors and will respond in due course in accordance with the best interests of the company and its shareholders”.

The Indian Hotels combined bid to acquire all the outstanding shares of Orient-Express Hotels was almost inconspicuous and flagged under ‘other developments’ at the fag end of the results statement. The bid was 43 per cent higher than Orient-Express’s 20-day average price, a record premium for the hotel industry.

The company is continuing to term the Indian Hotels offer ‘an unsolicited proposal’ and has said the bid was made “with certain other members of the Tata group of companies,.. and a fund controlled by Montezemolo and Partners...”

At September 30, the company had total net debt of $485.5 million compared with total net debt of $531.1 million at the end of 2011. Long-term debt (including the current portion and debt of consolidated variable interest entities) was at $606.0 million, working capital loans at $1.1 million and cash balances of $121.6 million (including $20.1 million of restricted cash).

Undrawn amounts available to the company at September 30, under short-term lines of credit were $3.3 million, bringing total cash availability (excluding restricted cash) at September 30, to $104.8 million.

As of September 30, the company said approximately 51 per cent of the company’s debt was at fixed interest rates and 49 per cent was at floating interest rates. The company had $52.8 million of debt repayments due within 12 months. “These amounts are expected to be met through a combination of operating cash flow, proceeds from divestments of non-core assets, refinancing of the facilities and utilisation of available cash,” the company said. No mention of the Tata Group’s $1.8-billion offer, which includes debt, was made.

Terming the financial release a forward-looking statement that involve risks and uncertainties, the company said it includes the uncertain outcome of the pending offer by Indian Hotels to acquire outstanding company shares.

amritanair.ghaswalla@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 2, 2012)
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