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"We are flattered that such large hotel groups are interested in HNA's shares" Interview with Hugo Rovira, Managing Director Southern Europe at NH Hotel Group

After expansion in Spain, Italy, Germany and Latin America, Hugo Rovira aims for strong growth in France by 2021.

What are your ambitions for France?

The first NH Collection hotel opened its doors in Marseille in January 2018, it will be followed by a second hotel in this destination which will be operated under the nhow brand as we take over the Palm Beach with an opening next June 4. We will open another property in Toulouse Blagnac airport which will offer more than 1000 m² of seminar space. We will also soon open a nhow in Bordeaux.

But I certainly don't intend to stop the group's development in France at this stage. We already had two properties in France, in Lyon and Nice. I want to accelerate our development in France and sign for at least 20 properties by 2021.

Our priorities are Paris, Lille, Strasbourg, Cannes and Nice.

Why such a confidential presence in France?

It is a question of opportunity, our various external growths have led us to acquire properties located in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands or South America in addition to our domestic market. I now turn resolutely to France. We will end the year with 5 properties open, there is still a long way to go.

You are aiming for strong growth in France, have you looked at a possible takeover of Maranatha?

We have looked because they have interesting properties, but it is too complex set up.

What are your ambitions on a European scale?

In the markets I am developing (Southern Europe NDR), the objectives are clear. We already have 140 properties in Spain so our growth will be very selective. One example is Malaga where I want to open a property in the city centre.

In Italy we are already very well established with 54 properties but I think we could easily operate 40 more. We are in the process of signing several projects in Milan and Rome.

Concerning Portugal, the domestic market is small and very concentrated around Lisbon, so I will remain very cautious about our growth and aim for 2 to 3 additional establishments.

Overall, our objective is to consolidate our position in European capitals.

Since the 2013 restructuring, you have been working to advance the group with the implementation of a specific action plan, can you tell us more?

At the time, we had only one brand but a wide variety of products following our various external growths. We decided to rationalize by divesting certain assets and focusing on the mid-range segment. We also declined 4 brands: NH Hotels, nhow, NH Collection and Hesperia Resorts to clarify our offer. The first nhow hotel was born in Milan 11 years ago.

We have also invested 230 million euros in the renovation of our assets to maintain quality standards and offer products that live up to the promise we make to our customers.

The arrival of HNA allowed you to implement these investments, do you have visibility as for the resale of their shares?

The only thing I can share with you here is that we are delighted and flattered that the 29% held by HNA is of such interest to our hotel friends. For me, this demonstrates the quality and good health of the company.


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