Perry Christie, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, plans to take control of an unfinished US$3.5-billion casino resort located in the capital Nassau. The scheme is currently tied up in a corporate bankruptcy process. Mr Christie said in a speech on Thursday that recent talks in Beijing between the developer and its lender – Export-Import Bank of China – failed to break a stalemate over how to complete the Baha Mar resort (pictured in a rendering).
Mr Christie said the attorney general of the island nation would begin liquidation proceedings to ensure the resort gets completed, describing it as crucial to the local economy. The project is expected to create about 5,000 new jobs and generate more than 10 percent of the Bahamas’ gross domestic product. The country is located in the Atlantic Ocean, 504 kilometres (313 miles) southeast of the U.S. coastal state of Florida, and is a popular tourism destination with U.S. citizens.
“The completion of the Baha Mar resort is a matter of the utmost national importance,” Mr Christie said, according to Reuters news agency. “Baha Mar must open,” he added.
Baha Mar Ltd, chaired by Sarkis Izmirlian, is developing the casino resort. Executives of Baha Mar Ltd travelled to China last week to meet officials from the Export-Import Bank of China and representatives from the project’s main contractor, China State Construction Engineering Corp.
The resort’s gaming operations are to be managed by Bill Weidner’s Global Gaming Asset Management LLC, Bahar Mar Ltd has said in public statements.
In an announcement on Friday, Baha Mar Ltd said the planned move by the Bahamas government jeopardises the resort’s assets and future.
“We urge the government of the Bahamas not to seize private party assets and to allow the private parties in what is after all a commercial enterprise to come to an agreement that would allow for the completion and opening of Baha Mar as soon as possible, as the government has publicly and explicitly urged,” the statement added.
Construction of the casino resort has been suspended for several months as payments have reportedly been delayed. The developer blames China Construction America Inc – a unit of China State Construction – for delays that forced the resort to miss a March 27 deadline for opening. The contractor however says Baha Mar Ltd mismanaged the project.
In late March, the project’s official opening was pushed back to early May. Since then, the developer hasn’t specified a new opening date.
Baha Mar Ltd filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a Delaware court on June 29.
On Thursday, the Bahamas’ Prime Minister said the bankruptcy process in the U.S. could result in a substantial delay in finishing the resort, which the official said is 97 percent complete, Reuters reported. A provisional liquidation would allow a neutral party to take control and put the resort on the right track for completion, Mr Christie added during his speech.
Casino operator Genting Malaysia Bhd is expanding a rival gaming property in the Bahamas, called Resorts World Bimini.
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