Malaysian billionaire Ananda sells German resort for RM1bil

Expansion plan: The sale of Tropical Islands Resort, which has an annual visitor count of 1.3 million, is likely to be completed by February.

PETALING JAYA: Tycoon T Ananda Krishnan has sold Tropical Islands Resort in Krausnick, Germany, for €226mil (RM1.07bil).

Spain’s Parques Reunidos Servicios Centrales SA is the buyer of the tropical-themed holiday resort and the deal is likely be completed by February.

According to a statement issued by Parques Reunidos, Tropical Islands has an annual visitor count of 1.3 million, generating an estimated revenue and earnings before interest and taxes of €71mil (RM336.82mil) and €20mil (RM94.88mil) respectively.

“As an indoor park, it operates year-round, extending the season in Europe and contributing to hedge the group against external conditions.

“Parques Reunidos has already identified multiple areas where it will implement its best practices and materialise operational improvements to further increase profitability levels.

Additional expansion opportunities will come from the development of unused land included in the transaction, according to Parques Reunidos.

Tropical Islands Resort is majority-owned by Tanjong Plc – Ananda’s holding company – which houses other leisure and property investments like TGV Cinemas and a 67%-ownership of the 49-storey Menara Maxis.

The disposal of the resort came at a time when Bumi Armada Bhd is slowly sinking into financial losses from stretched financials, tight cash flows and a hammered-down share price.

This raised the question whether some of the proceeds from the disposal of the resort would be channelled into Bumi Armada, a public-listed oil and gas services company substantially controlled by Ananda.

Bumi Armada closed 9.4% higher at 17.5 sen, traded on a volume of 130.18 million shares.

Bumi Armada CEO Leon Harland had earlier said that the company would not make a cash call from shareholders.

The company has to refinance a US$500mil debt by the first quarter of next year.

As of Sept 30, the company has net liabilities of RM9.6bil and interest servicing amounting to RM390mil for the first nine months of the year.

The management has since indicated to analysts that it was looking at several options to raise funds, such as monetising some of its assets.

Tropical Islands Resort is located 60km south of Berlin and was built in a former airship hangar.

Tanjong Plc and Ananda’s business partner Colin Au purchased the hangar on June 11, 2003 for €17.5mil (RM78.12mil at that time).

Au was formerly the president and CEO of Star Cruises Ltd, and is today the group president of Genting Hong Kong Ltd.

The resort commenced operations on Dec 19, 2004, taking only nine months to transform the hangar into Europe’s largest tropical holiday world, with a reported investment cost of RM600mil.

The 100,000 sq m Tropical Islands Resort boasts the world’s largest indoor rainforest, palm tree-lined artificial beaches, Germany’s highest water slide tower and an enormous tropical sauna and spa complex.

Parques Reunidos is a leading leisure park operator with a portfolio of more than 60 assets across 14 countries, receiving 20 million visitors per year.

According to Bloomberg, Ananda has been shifting his focus to domestic investments after Indian wireless operator Aircel Ltd, which he controls, filed for bankruptcy protection this year.

Apart from Bumi Armada, Ananda’s other substantially-owned listed companies in Malaysia are telco Maxis Bhd and pay-TV operator Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd, which are currently seeing changes at the helm.

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