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Sea Containers pulls out of Orient-Express

06 December 2005

Sea Containers last week offloaded its remaining 25% stake in Orient-Express Hotels.

The heavily oversubscribed sale raised $300m (£175m) by offloading 9.9 million shares at $32 (£18.65) each. It completes the company's gradual disengagement from the hotel business.

Sea Containers floated Orient-Express Hotels, whose properties include Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire, and the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, on the New York Stock Exchange in August 2000 at $19 (£11) per share.

The hotel group was founded in 1976 as the leisure arm of Sea Containers but quickly outgrew its roots. It currently owns or part-owns 49 businesses around the world, including 38 luxury hotels, five tourist trains and hotel-barges in France.

Now its only links with Sea Containers lies with James Sherwood, founder and chairman of both companies, and his stepson Simon Sherwood, who is president of Orient-Express Hotels.

Orient-Express said the move wouldn't change its expansion plans. "We have acquired or developed two to three new businesses each year for the last five to six years and we will continue to do," said Pippa Isbell, vice-president of public relations.

Raymond Blanc, chef-proprietor of Le Manoir, said the sale wouldn't affect his business.

By Angela Frewin

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