The Sultan of Brunei’s sovereign wealth fund, BMB Group, has denied speculation that it is expected to make an offer for holiday village specialist Club Med this week.
However speculation following a story in The Sunday Times remains rife that BMB Group, an investment firm that manages money for the Sultan of Brunei’s family, is poised to try to buy the French package specialist for €800m (£675m).
The deal is understood to have the backing of three or four of Club Med’s major shareholders and include London-based hedge fund GLG; Rolaco, a Saudi Arabian investment firm; and Fosun Group, China’s largest non-state controlled company.
Fosun, which is chaired by one of China’s richest men, Guo Guangchang, bought a 7 percent stake in Club Med last month, as the group aims to expand aggressively into China.
With its traditional European client base stalling, Club Med has said Chinese tourists will soon become its second-biggest customer base, with a target of 200,000 Chinese customers by 2015. It will open its first Chinese club, a ski resort in the mountains of China’s north-west, in November and hopes to open another five during the next five years.
Club Med was founded in 1950 by Gerard Blitz, a former Belgian water polo champion, with its first resort set up in Majorca.
At the time Mr Blitz said: “Our purpose in life is to be happy. The place to be happy is here. And the time to be happy is now.”
Today, Club Med operates more than 80 resort villages on five continents.
The group once hoped merge with French hospitality giant Accor in a bid to boost its holiday village concept. When that plan failed Club Med embarked on a major restructuring, which saw it close down many of its all-inclusive resorts in favour of up-market “villages”.
The BMB Group has responded to claims that it is expected to table an offer for Paris-listed Club Med. Harold Alby, spokesperson for The BMB Group commented: “The BMB Group has not been in discussions with any executive or shareholder of Club Med as implied by the Sunday Times article.”
He added: “We have developed a successful business in part because we greatly respect our clients’ wishes for confidentiality. However, we can confirm that we do not advise nor represent the Brunei Government on any investment matters. We run a private asset management business for a series of Middle Eastern and Far Eastern investors. We have interest in the hospitality sector and are presently working on a number of acquisitions.”
It says the speculation comes after a flurry of real estate activity by the group. The BMB Group recently acquired two significant real estate companies in Europe in the space of a couple of months which have been consolidated to over US$5 billion of European and global real estate assets. The Group’s real estate business continues to grow through a series of acquisitions of other management companies and portfolios globally.
The BMB Group is headquartered in the Cayman Islands and founded by Rayo Withanage and H.H. Prince Abdul Ali ‘Yil-Kabier in 2004.