Saudi billionaire Norfolk stake sale approved


The front view of the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE

The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) has approved the buyout of Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal stake in the troubled Fairmont The Norfolk and Fairmont Mara Safari Club by Chaudhary Group, which is associated with billionaire Nepalese lawmaker Binod Chaudhary.

The deal, estimated at Sh2.8 billion, will be the second deal in the region for the Kathmandu-based multinational which also owns Le Relax Hotel in the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles.

"It is notified that the Competition Authority of Kenya has approved the proposed acquisition of control of Kingdom 5-KR 185 Limited by Madison Hotels and Resorts Limited,” said CAK director-general Wang’ombe Kariuki in a gazette notice published last Friday.

Chaudhary Group, which is associated with Binod Chaudhary, a billionaire Nepalese lawmaker, has already listed the two hotels among its string of high-end hospitality investments spread in Asia and the Middle East.

It says the deal will give it an additional 170 guest rooms and suites, 51 luxury tents and about 10 food and beverage outlets.

Chaudhary Group also has investments in banking, education, energy, telecommunication and pharmaceuticals with operations in five continents. The Group Chairman and President, Binod, is estimated to be worth $1.4 billion (Sh148.5 billion), according to Nepalese media reports.

Kingdom Hotel Investments shelled out Sh6 billion in 2005 to acquire and upgrade the Lonrho properties – the last remnants of British aristocrat Tiny Rowland’s vast empire.

They included the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, the Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki, the Aberdare Country Club, the Ark and the Mara Safari Club.

The acquisition was hailed as one of the largest in East Africa at the time. But Prince Alweed has taken a strategic decision to divest from hotels, selling Four Seasons Damascus in Syria and Four Seasons Beirut in Lebanon.

The sales come two years after the prince, who is a grandson of the founder of Saudi Arabia, became one the high-ranking Saudi officials arrested in what authorities there said was an anti-corruption crackdown.

Now in his 60s, the flamboyant prince is a serial investor in top global luxury hotel chains. He has in the past 30 years built up a fortune worth $20.4 billion (about Sh2.1 trillion), according to Bloomberg.