During the April-June quarter, Russell Credit picked up 1.1 per cent in the hospitality major, taking total stake to 13.98 per cent, while the promoters hold a 56.57 per cent. The Hotel Leela stock hovered between Rs 29.55 and Rs 35.75 around that time. ITC has been accumulating Hotel Leela shares since late 2008 when the stock was trading between Rs 19-20, but has maintained that these were treasury operations.
“These are routine treasury operations,” an ITC spokesperson said, when contacted.
ITC Chairman Y C Deveshwar, was recently quizzed about ITC’s gameplan in another hotel company, EIH, and without revealing much, he said, “When the market is down, is it the right time to sell? The counter question is, is it the right time to buy?”
ITC had been buying into EIH that runs the Oberoi chain of hotels, since 2000 and has a 14.98 per cent stake. The company had maintained its holding at 14.98 per cent for a while, a shade below the earlier threshold level of 15 per cent, which would have triggered an open offer under the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) guidelines. However, under the new Sebi takeover code, shares can be acquired up to 25 per cent without triggering an open offer.
At one point in time, ITC was keen on a partnership in the form a joint ownership or marketing alliance. However, neither EIH, nor Hotel Leela, gave in.
In 2010, EIH brought in Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) as a stakeholder in a surprise move to ward off any possible takeover.
RIL checked into EIH through its wholly owned subsidiary Reliance Industries Investments and Holdings that acquired 14.8 per cent from Oberoi Hotels and promoters of EIH. RIL first picked up 14.2 per cent in EIH for Rs 1,021 crore and later increased it to 14.8 per cent.
Last year, Nita Ambani, Mukesh Ambani’s wife, was also inducted to the EIH board.
Leela, had also suggested last year that in case of any hostile takeover attempt from ITC, it could consider approaching Ambani.