Riding the right horse

This week saw Accor chairman & CEO Sébastien Bazin telling Bloomberg that the group hadn’t yet spent the money raised in its SPAC earlier this year because, with so many opportunities knocking on the door, he wanted to “make sure it’s the right horse”. 

The SPAC, of course, is not for hotel brands, it is for Other Stuff. Rumour suggests a cabaret. Bazin said that Accor had “never had so many brands knocking on our door”, which is no great shock given that Accor’s favourite thing is buying brands created by former Accor employees and there are a few of them. It’s a decent incubation strategy in a city with a reputation for such things. 

Buying brands is a matter for the balance sheet and Accor, much like the other big operators, is sitting on a war chest that it hasn’t had to deploy. But it will, because, well, Accor. Bazin told Bloomberg that the group was biding its time, being cautious and whatnot, which will be music to the analysts’ ears, given their general ongoing confusion about what Accor’s up to and where it’s going. Soothing talk indeed. 

It’s a fool who would speculate on what Accor is going to buy, but sometimes a little foolishness is just what’s required in these tense times. With brands spewing out everywhere without pause, it would be impossible to pin the tail on that donkey, although Bazin did mention the “flamboyant” leisure market, so something along the lines of Crazy Horse in Las Vegas, perhaps. This columnist would like to think that’s why the horse analogies were front of mind for the CEO. 

The group has most-recently consumed Ennismore, so is all set for luxury and lifestyle, but maybe the focus will be more geographical, rather than segmented. Bazin was frank in admitting that the company’s recovery would be six months behinds the likes of Hilton and Marriott  – in Spring 2023 – because Accor was so “geographically diverse” and of course one man’s frank admission is another’s cocking of the snook.

The first half of this year saw 25.4% of Accor’s managed and franchised revenue coming from Asia Pacific, its leading region (bear in mind that it split Europe into north and south, with the former accounting for 14.2% and the sunny south 24.3%). The Americas in total were 21.9% and then group is strong in Latin America.

So the US then, which takes us back to where it always does. Merging with Marriott. 

Fool’s games aside, the timing of all of this is what grips us the most at NewDog, linked so closely as it is to the Quarter of Reckoning and we did start to see signs this week that it was looming, with the long-awaited sale of two Macdonald hotels, to private equity firm Zetland Capital Partners.

Ahmed Hamdani, managing partner at Zetland Capital Partners LLP, said: “We are delighted to have acquired these two very well located hotels in prime UK cities. Our strategy is to provide significant investment to refurbish and reposition these hotels. This acquisition aligns with our investment strategy to purchase and invest in well-located hotels across the UK, where we can materially enhance the product offering and benefit from the recovery of demand in the UK’s key cities.”

The deal, one of the largest UK hotel transactions of 2021 according to Christie & Co, which advised Zetland, was just the kind of deal PE likes to do and just the kind of deal we’ve been keeping an eye on in the downturn, with Macdonald planning to use the proceeds to refresh its remaining portfolio. 

The stars are aligning. Head down to Crazy Horse to place your bets. 

Scroll to Top