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Asian Investor Makes £350M Bet On London Hotel Recovery

The Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum hotel

A Singaporean investor has completed the purchase of one of London’s largest hotels for about £350M, even as the hospitality sector in the capital continues to have a bumpy recovery. 

Fragrance Group bought the 906-room Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum from UK investor Queensgate, Mingtiandi reported, citing information from a report by Savills, one of the brokers on the transaction. 

Queensgate had planned a £1B redevelopment of the building in west London, which would have seen the creation of a 749-room hotel and 340 serviced apartments on the 2-acre freehold site, but was unable to gain planning permission and appointed Savills and Eastdil Secured to sell the building instead. 

The new owner plans to undertake a less comprehensive refurbishment that will close the hotel for part of 2022. 

In October last year, London hotel occupancy reached its highest level since before the pandemic at 66%, data from STR showed. But the omicron variant of the coronavirus caused occupancy to fall back to 53% in December. That is compared to 87% in October 2019 and 91% in December of the same year. 

In spite of the stuttering recovery, investors are starting to warm to UK hotels. Savills said £4.2B was invested in 2021 up 84% on 2020 figures, although 2020 provides a very low base. 

Fragrance Group is owned by investor Koh Wee Meng, who took the company private in a £507M deal last year. It owns hotel, office, industrial and residential assets in Singapore, Australia and the UK

On top of the Kensington Forum, its UK portfolio comprises five operational hotels, principally in the North West, and six hotel development sites, most of which were bought in 2016.