Inducts Nita Mukesh Ambani into the board

The Oberoi Group is planning a Trident-brand hotel in Navi Mumbai in Maharashtra on land owned by Reliance Industries Ltd, EIH Chairman P. R. S. Oberoi said.

His statement, in response to media queries, came on a day when Nita Mukesh Ambani made her maiden appearance at EIH’s annual general meeting, where minority shareholders approved her induction into the EIH board.

RIL, which, through Reliance Industries Investment Holding Pvt. Ltd., holds a stake of about 18 per cent in EIH, was brought in as a strategic investor in August 2010, in the wake of ITC steadily increasing its equity holding in EIH.

At present, the promoter group holds 35.2 per cent of EIH equity followed by RIL’s 18 per cent and ITC’s 14.86 per cent.

To a question as to why an Ambani was brought on board and not an ITC representative, Mr. Oberoi quipped: “Because we invited them (the Ambanis)”.

Elaborating on the Navi Mumbai proposal, he said that this was likely to be a hotel-cum--serviced apartment project on a 15-acre plot. “We have already inspected the area”, he said. The group has two brands —the luxury Oberoi and the five-star Trident. It has two Trident brand properties in Mumbai.

Equity stake

EIH Vice-Chairman S.S. Mukherjee said that the Oberoi group’s aim was to steadily increase its equity stake. Indications were that the group wanted to increase its stake to the 41 per cent holding that it had before it sold a part of its holding to RIL.

While the group is going slow on its investment plans, staggering launches, Mr. Oberoi said EIH had seen some sites in Ahmedabad. Oberoi and Trident hotels were also coming up at Pune and Hyderabad, he said.

The proposed Oberoi hotels at Bangalore and Goa were awaiting environmental clearances, Mr. Oberoi said. “One needs 60 clearances,” he told shareholders.

EIH closed the first quarter of 2012-13 with lower revenue of Rs. 247.9 crore against Rs. 255.8 crore last year while profit after tax stood at Rs. 9.5 crore against Rs. 15.5 crore. “The results have not been encouraging,” Mr. Oberoi said, attributing it to the global financial crisis and India’s uncertain economic climate. The Oberoi Group will rethink its plan to open a Jungle Lodge in Karnataka following the Supreme Court disallowing tourism in the core areas of reserve forests.

This was stated by Mr. Oberoi at the company’s annual general meeting and then at a pressmeet here on Tuesday.

EIH had planned to open the Oberoi Kabini Jungle Lodge as a managed property this year. EIH Vice-Chairman S. S. Mukherjee said that crores of rupees were involved in wildlife tourism with a multiplier effect on employment generation and economic activity. Mr. Oberoi said that experts had felt that restricting wildlife tourism in this manner might trigger poaching activities.

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