Ethiopian Ghion Hotel up for royalty

Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

By Groum Abate, Capital Ethiopia

Ghion Hotel is going back to the royal family after the family of Haile Selassie I started negotiating for its acquisition.

Sons of Prince Mekonnen, favourite son of the emperor, have been negotiating with the Privatization and Public Enterprises Supervisory Agency (PPESA). The venue in central Addis Ababa became a hotel in 1951 to host guests that were expected to come to attend the establishment of the Organization of African Union (OAU). Apart from Ghion, Meskal Flower and Ethiopia Hotel were also refurbished for guests that were expected to flock to the country for the event. A German-based company named Dinkanesh is negotiating the acquisition of Ghion Hotel, which is expected to be concluded by next week.

Ghion has been a focus for many high profile business people and companies for the last couple of years after the government invited interested parties to a joint venture in the hotel. The royal family, has been in talks to get the hotel back from the government after the Derg confiscated it. Sources told Capital that the negotiation is in its final stage and is likely to be successful this time around after so many attempts to partially privatise it. The two parties are negotiating on how to refurbish the hotel in the future. Officials of PPEPSA declined to comment on the issue, saying that it would be finalised by next week and comments now were not appropriate.

The Saudi billionaire Prince Al Wallid bin Tallal was among the first to show strong interest in buying the hotel. Other international companies have also signaled their interest in co-owning the Ghion. Dhabi Group, which is based in Abu Dhabi and has a large number of subsidiaries that operate in the industrial sector in the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, has shown interest in the acquisition. TATA International, which is an Indian investment group established in 1962, has also submitted its business plan for a joint venture to PPESA. The other international firm to have shown its interest is the Israeli consortium, Union Blessed Limited. It is engaged in real estate in Asia, South America and Israel.

SSO Property Limited, a consortium of prospective investors from Nigeria and Dubai also expressed interest by submitting a detailed plan in April 2008. The company wants to take up to a 70 per cent share in the hotel and invest 200 million dollars in its renovation. This project was expected to refurbish the hotel to a five-star hotel and to have 250 rooms, a 2,000 seat convention centre, a new Ethiopian restaurant, a health and spa centre, 230 apartments, and a mall with a cinema inside. Sources told Capital that members of the royal family were at Hilton Hotel until last week negotiating with government officials on how to conduct the negotiations. According to sources, representatives of the royal family also assessed possible cooperation with Hilton Hotel, but the negotiations are not official. Hilton Hotel also showed interest in taking the management of Ghion Hotel some years ago.

Ghion Hotels Enterprise was established by the government in 1951 and used to operate a chain of 11 hotels, which were all found in north Ethiopia, except National Hotel, which was sold to the Ethiopian Athletics Federation last week. Furthermore, Roha Hotel, one of the hotels administered by Ghion Hotel, was transferred to Ayat Real Estate after the latter won a bid. Despite operating old hotels with rundown facilities in many of its properties, including in the capital, the enterprise had an after tax profit of 10.6 million birr in 2004. The hotel is well known for its tastefully furnished rooms, enchanting gardens with their exotic plants and flowers, and thermally heated bathing and swimming pools.