The head of Bahamas Tourism says several parties have shown interest in purchasing Baha Mar (pictured in a rendering), a stalled casino resort project on the Caribbean archipelago.
Joy Jibrilu of Bahamas Tourism, quoted on Sunday by the Caribbean Journal news outlet, said the government had already met with “five or six” parties interested in the development, which is located in the capital Nassau.
“As one potential party said to me, ‘Everything’s in place. It’s 97 percent completed, all the approvals are in place, it’s just ready to go’. And this is something that is very attractive.”
The project is slated to include four hotels according to previous reports.
According to a media briefing during the Global Gaming Expo Asia 2013 casino industry trade show held in Macau, the Export-Import Bank of China – a mainland Chinese state-controlled lender – bankrolled most of the project with an approximately US$2.5-billion loan.
The resort’s developer – Baha Mar Ltd, led by businessman Sarkis Izmirlian – filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a Delaware court in the United States on June 29, claiming it faced debts of US$2.7 billion. But the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Supreme Court in July rejected an application seeking approval for the recognition on the bankruptcy orders issued by a judge in the U.S.
The developer had said that China Construction America Inc – a unit of China State Construction Engineering Corp – had caused delays that forced the resort to miss a March 27, 2015, deadline for opening. The contractor however said Baha Mar Ltd mismanaged the project.
In a speech on July 16, Perry Christie, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, said the government was planning to take control of the US$3.5-billion casino resort.
Nassau is approximately 290 kilometres (180 miles) southeast of the U.S. state of Florida, and an approximately 45-minute flight from Miami. The Bahamas’ capital is 550 kilometres – or approximately one hour, 15 minutes by air – north of Cuba’s capital Havana.
In late October, after unsuccessful efforts to settle the dispute, the Bahamas’ Supreme Court approved a request from the Export-Import Bank of China to appoint Deloitte and Touche LLP as receiver to Baha Mar. The receivership effectively eliminated further input from Baha Mar Ltd, and in November local media reported that Mr Izmirlian and fellow board directors had resigned from Baha Mar Ltd.
Prime Minister Christie has meanwhile been keen to restart a project seen as important to the Bahamian tourism economy. Mr Christie last week reported that a “huge number” of investors are interested in buying Baha Mar.
“There are a huge number of very internationally recognisable corporate names interested in the product [Baha Mar]… those will be brought to your attention because it is for the bank to make a decision…” Mr Christie said at the swearing-in ceremony of Paul Andrew Gomez as the Bahamas’ new ambassador to China.
Former Baha Mar Ltd board member Dionisio D’Aguilar told the Nassau Guardian Business newspaper that the process could take longer than expected, because as things stand the Prime Minister cannot control the timing of it.
“The Chinese government, through China Export-Import Bank, decides to whom they are going to sell that project, because clearly, they don’t want to run it. So, until they decide to give it away at a fire-sale price, it will just sit there,” Mr D’Aguilar was quoted saying.
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