Dubai hotel builder seeks extension on $2.7bn loan

Kerzner International, a major global hotel chain with links to Dubai, is in talks to extend repayment of its debts after falling on hard times during the financial crisis.

Kerzner International Holdings, the hotels giant that built the Atlantis on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah, is in talks to delay repayment of US$2.78 billion (Dh10.21bn) of loans coming due next month.

It is feared the company, which is part-owned by Dubai World's Istithmar, might default on the mortgages if a deal cannot be reached, Bloomberg News reported yesterday, citing three sources familiar with the matter.

The debt talks come as luxury hotels across the globe face tough times. Occupancy rates in some of the world's biggest tourism markets have stagnated amid a slump in economic activity and high unemployment in the developed world. Official data from Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing in February showed flat occupancy of 70 per cent last year.

More than $1.4bn of Kerzner's debt is reportedly in the form of mortgage-backed securities sold on to investors. The company may ask those investors to take a $100 million upfront payment on the principal in exchange for a two-year extension to repay the debt.

Dubai's relationship with Kerzner and its founder, Sol Kerzner, dates back almost a decade. It drew closer in 2006, when Istithmar World, the investment arm of the government-owned conglomerate Dubai World, bought 12.3 per cent of the company in a privatisation and takeover led by Mr Kerzner.

The following year, Istithmar and Kerzner joined to help fund the multibillion-dollar City Center hotel and resort complex on the Las Vegas strip.

In addition to building the $1.5bn Atlantis, the Palm, which opened in 2008, Kerzner was behind Dubai's One and Only Royal Mirage resort.

Dubai World was being advised on the debt-extension talks by Moelis and Company, Bloomberg reported.

Kerzner has hired Blackstone Group and Kirkland & Ellis to advise on the deal, and the company's South African founder has retained Centerview Partners.

* with Bloomberg

Published: August 18, 2011 04:00 AM