ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday April 27, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 48
Financial Times  

Nahil will not sell Continental just yet

By Duruthu Edirimuni Chandrasekera

Contrary to popular belief that Nahil Wijesooriya, businessman and new owner of Continental Hotel will sell his acquisition in the short term after the hotel shares have increased to a higher value, Wijesooriya denied the rumour saying that he is holding on to the hotel.

"Nothing is permanent. If an opportunity comes, I might sell, but for now - in the short term I am keeping the hotel," he told The Sunday Times FT. He said he is trying to create opportunities to add value to the hotel. "My long term plans may be very short, because I can do things in two years, which others can do in 10 years. Also I know that long term plans are made of a string of short term plans," he added.

Wijesooriya said that he has plans to implement the Integrated Resort (IR) a Singaporean concept for a casino based development at the hotel. "We need to promote IRS to India. Right now the law of gaining in Sri Lanka is not that clear. We need to be very clear about its legal aspects and have an unambiguous law," he explained.

He also said that part of the airport has to have a budget terminal in order to attract low cost airlines in a bid to attract tourists. "It must be made very basic," he said. Wijesooriya said that when such infrastructure is in place, there will be good tourist attraction, especially from countries like India.

"We cannot wait for the war to stop to fill up the hotels. We cannot also expect the tourists to be visiting the same ruins year after year. We need to be able to look at other avenues to attract them," he said.

He said that Continental's structure will have to be changed, if he plans some of the IR activities there. "There is uninterrupted space of 30,000 square feet on top of the ballroom and pastry shop area at Continental. We plan to have a roof without any columns in the middle, but only on the edges. This is good area for some IR activities," he added. He said that U. K Sharma, who owned the hotel previously, will keep nearly nine percent of his shares for about a year for sentimental reasons.

Sharma who was the largest shareholder of Hotel Services Plc, the owning company of the Ceylon Continental had sold 9.3 million shares (53 percent) to the Singapore based off shore consortium, Green Care International Limited led by Wijesooriya. Initially, Hotel Services Limited held 97.33 percent of the hotel under the chairmanship of Sharma. This deal was concluded at Rs. 130 a share for a total consideration of Rs. 1.3 billion.


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