MANILA, Sept. 18 -- After nearly 10 years of seeking foreign suitors, the Grand Old Dame of Manila has finally found a new partner. A Malaysian conglomerate with holdings ranging from infrastructure to the hotel industry on Monday won the right to be the historic Manila Hotel's strategic partner with a bid of 673.20 million pesos ($25.9 million).
Renong Berhad of Malaysia -- together with ITT Sheraton -- won over the only other bidder, the locally owned Manila Prince Hotel Corp. Renong Berhad's winning bid for 51 percent of the hotel was valued at 44 pesos ($1.7) per share. The minimum bid set by the Government Service Insurance System or GSIS, the government arm that owns Manila Hotel, was 36.67 pesos ($1.4). GSIS officials said Renong Berhad's purchase of more than half the hotel's 30 million shares would pave the way for its overdue renovation and modernization -- a move that is expected to make the 83-year-old hotel more competitive. The rise of at least 10 new hotels in Manila during the last five years have left Manila Hotel's earnings spiraling downward. The 510-room hotel's net income plunged 93 percent to 2.2 million pesos ($846,805) in 1993 from 32 million pesos ($1.23 million) in 1992. In 1994, the hotel suffered a net loss of 49 million pesos ($1.9 million). Under the agreement, the remaining 20 percent would be sold late this year to hotel and GSIS employees while 8 percent would be offered to the public in 1996. GSIS would retain 20 percent of the shares and ownership of the land. Originally built in 1912 as a Filipino-American joint venture, Manila hotel has hosted U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, writer Ernest Hemingway, celebrities Marlon Brando and Sammy Davis Jr., and US presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.