Sun, Feb 02, 2014 - Page 6 News List

LDC Hotels buys into Italy as local chains expand

HOSPITALITY STRATEGY:As LDC Hotels buys up properties in Italy, rival FIHC focuses on management, while the Ambassador chain is turning to leasing and BOT projects

By Amy Su  /  Staff reporter

Checking into an elegant historic hotel with classic decor in Venice, Italy, one might not think the owner of the hotel could be Taiwanese.

But that is changing.

LDC Hotels & Resorts Group (雲朗觀光集團), which was founded in 2008 and currently owns more than 10 hotels globally, announced earlier this month that it has acquired the ownership of a century-old mansion in Venice, with plans to renovate it into a 30-room luxury hotel.

The group said the mansion, which will be named Grand Canal Palace Hotel, is expected to open its doors to the public in the first quarter of next year.

This is not the group’s first hotel in Italy — LDC Hotels secured the ownership of two luxury hotels near Milan and Rome last year, naming them the Relais Sant’Uffizio Wellness & Spa Hotel and Relais Villa Monte Solare Hotel.

The group has also signed a memorandum of intent (MOI) to purchase another hotel in Rome, with another three cases under consideration.

“In the longer term, we hope to expand the group’s territory to more countries,” said LDC Hotels president Emile Sheng (盛治仁), a former Council for Cultural Affairs minister.

LDC Hotels, known as Chinatrust Hotels Ltd (中信觀光開發) before it renamed itself in 2008, owns a total of 12 hotels under five brands in Taiwan and China. They are the Palais de Chine Hotel (君品酒店), the Fleur de Chine Hotel (雲品溫泉酒店), the Chateau de Chine Hotel (翰品酒店), the Maison de Chine Hotel (兆品酒店) and Chinatrust Hotel (中信大飯店).

The group declined to talk about its sales and earnings figures for last year. Although its announcement earlier this month that it would spin off the Fleur de Chine Hotel near Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) in Nantou County raised market speculation that it might be paving the way for a listing on the local bourse, the group has shied away from an initial primary offering (IPO) plan.

Nonetheless, LDC Hotels’ accelerated expansion has raised market speculation that the group has set its eyes on leading the nation’s hotel industry and is stepping up its competition with Formosa International Hotels Corp (FIHC, 晶華國際酒店集團).

FIHC, which owns the Regent Hotels & Resorts brand, operates 17 hotels globally, with seven under the Regent brand, three under the brand of Silks Place (晶英酒店) and seven under its budget hotel brand Just Sleep (捷絲旅).

FIHC does not consider LDC Hotels’ expansion a threat to its leadership any time soon.

“We aim to be the leader in every market by strengthening the company’s capability of property management,” FIHC public relations director Ellen Chang (張筠) said.

Chang said the company’s focus on hotel management and operation, rather than using LDC Hotels’ ownership strategy, would help lower risks and maintain steady profitability.

Formosa International posted NT$5.73 billion (US$188.6 million) in consolidated revenue for the whole of last year, up 4.98 percent from 2012, while its net profit for the first three quarters of last year declined 4.67 percent to NT$781.68 million, or NT$7.35 per share, the company’s data showed.

However, Ambassador Hotel Ltd (國賓大飯店集團), which has tended to attach more importance to assets, has fine-tuned it strategy at a time when most hotel operators are becoming more confident in Taiwan’s tourism sector, thanks to the return of foreign tourists, mainly Japanese, and an increase in the number of Chinese guests.

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