AccorHotels announces long-awaited property spin-off

FILE PHOTO: The logos of AccorHotels group is pictured during a news conference at the Pullman Bangkok King Power hotel, in Bangkok, Thailand, June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French hotel group AccorHotels ACCP.PA said on Tuesday it had agreed to sell 55 percent of its AccorInvest property business to a group of sovereign and institutional investors for 4.4 billion euros ($5.3 billion).

The company announced plans to sell the majority holding to investors including Saudia Arabia's PIF and Singapore's GIC sovereign funds, as well as Credit Agricole Assurances CAGR.PA, Colony NorthStar and Amundi AMUN.PA.

Paris-based AccorHotels, which has more than 4,000 hotels ranging from luxury Sofitels to the budget Ibis brand, has said the stake sale will give it greater financial leeway to accelerate growth and fight the rising challenges from companies such as Airbnb and online travel agents.

The company will begin returning cash to shareholders through 1.35 billion euros in share buybacks within two years, Chief Executive Sebastien Bazin said on a call with analysts and reporters. The group could also further reduce its remaining AccorInvest holding in future, he said.

AccorHotels had said last week that the long-delayed sale was imminent and hinted that it could trigger a special dividend.

Reporting by Laurence Frost. Editing by Jane Merriman and David Evans