MANDARIN Oriental International has made a new move into the resort business, signing agreements to manage luxury resorts in Phuket and Ko Samui, Thailand. The properties involved are the Phuket Yacht Club Hotel and Beach Resort and the planned luxury Baan Taling Ngam Hotel and Resort in Ko Samui. Mandarin will not take shareholdings in either of the resorts. Both properties are owned by First Pacific Land Public Co and the agreements will be subject to shareholder approval at the company's annual meeting on April 28. Mandarin's first attempt to enter the luxury resort market by linking up with Mr Adriaan Zecha's Amanresorts collapsed when it was leap-frogged by a third party. The group had signed a non-binding letter of intent to acquire equity in Amanresorts when the luxury chain gave exclusive negotiations to Credicom of Belgium. Following that, Mandarin withdrew its investment proposal. According to Mandarin managing director Robert Riley, the group had been seeking resort opportunities for some time. The two Thai properties are the first for which the group has finalised management agreements. ''This is a great opportunity for us to cross the market and to bring to our group a greater variety of experience,'' said Mr Riley. ''Strategically, we are interested in luxury hotels because they play so well,'' he said. An analyst said the two management contracts indicated that the group was showing strong interest in getting into the resort business. He described both properties as ''very good''. ''Mandarin's expansion in cities is now limited as they have properties in most of the major cities and they have got to move into new markets,'' he said. ''While the two management contracts may not make a significant contribution to the group's earnings, it is a good opportunity for the group to gain expertise in managing and marketing luxury resorts so that when they do develop their own resort, they would be much better placed to do so.'' Peregrine Securities analyst Ravi Narain described the link-up as a ''very good deal''. ''There is no capital outlay for Mandarin as it is a management contract and, as such, is risk-free,'' he said. ''At the same time, it gives the group an entry into luxury resorts and broadens its stable of hotels.''. He said the Phuket Yacht Club was very well-known and was at the top end of the market. The Phuket Yacht Club gained worldwide recognition through its sponsorship of the annual Phuket King's Cup regatta, Asia's premier yacht race. The resort has 108 rooms and suites as well as two sailing yachts for guests' use. Mr Riley emphasised that the Phuket Yacht Club was very well-managed. ''We hope that we can bring it from strength to strength,'' he said. The resort's name would be retained. ''We will market the property so that people will know that it is part of the Mandarin group,'' he said. The two properties in Thailand are well-matched to the group's current portfolio of hotels in terms of the countries in which they are located, the market in which they operate and the clients they attract. Mr Riley said there was tremendous synergy in having the Phuket Yacht Club. Many business travellers who stayed at the group's properties in major cities such as Singapore, Bangkok and Hongkong were very likely to stay at the resort as well. The other property, the Baan Taling Ngam Hotel and Resort, is an exclusive project under development on Ko Samui. The development comprises 52 rooms, exclusive sports facilities and 42 luxury villas. It is scheduled to open later this year.