Hong Kong-based global conglomerate Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) has formally taken over the Baha Mar mega resort in the Bahamas (pictured), ending two years of bitter confusion surrounding the biggest leisure scheme in Caribbean history.
CTFE signed an agreement to own and operate the Chinese built and majority funded hotel and casino complex in Nassau on 12 December, definitively closing any prospect of its original developer, Sarkis Izmirlian, regaining ownership.
We will also ensure that the Bahamian people and the region benefit fully from the project, which will create tremendous job and economic stimulus opportunities– Graeme Davis, President of CTFE’s Bahamas subsidiary
The conglomerate, with interests in everything from hotels, transportation and jewellery retailing, plans to invest $200m in getting the nearly complete resort open in April 2017, nearly two years after Izmirlian and the Chinese contractor China Construction America (CCA) parted company acrimoniously over delays in June 2015.
Confirming plans announced earlier this month by Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie, CTFE said it plans to open the resort in phases, beginning with phase one in April 2017, which will include the casino hotel, casino, convention center and golf course.
The company estimates that more than 1,500 jobs will be generated for Bahamians in this first phase and, once fully operational, Baha Mar will employ thousands more, providing a major economic boost to the tiny island nation plagued by high unemployment.
"We are delighted to have CTFE join Baha Mar Resort as the owner and developer, leveraging its expansive network and resources to open new markets and opportunities for The Bahamas that will deliver great benefits to the island and our people," said Prime Minister Christie, for whom the delayed resort had become a political headache as elections loom in May 2017.
"The Government is confident that CTFE has the precise capabilities and track record to successfully complete and operate Baha Mar Resort from both a lodging and casino perspective," he added. "We look forward to having such a renowned and experienced company turn the vision for Baha Mar Resort into reality."
Also relieved will be the the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank), which invested $2.5bn in Izmirlian’s resort scheme in 2010. After the project hit the rails, the Exim Bank acquired control of it in October 2015 when the Bahamas Supreme Court placed the resort in receivership. Since then the state-owned bank has been trying to sell it, ignoring repeated offers made by Izmirlian.
"While there have been challenges with the project along the way, The Government of The Bahamas and EXIM Bank have been steadfast in bringing this project to fruition," the bank said in a statement. "Now, with a supremely qualified, world-class owner and operator in place, we look forward to working together with CTFE to bring the already stellar reputation of the Bahamas as a leading tourism destination to a new level."
How much CTFE paid for Baha Mar was not disclosed.
The signed share purchase agreement allows for the acquisition by CTFE of all issued capital from Perfect Luck Assets Limited, including those Baha Mar Resort assets previously transferred to the company. Perfect Luck is a special purpose vehicle owned by Exim Bank.
Graeme Davis, President, CTFE’s Bahamas subsidiary, said "CTFE will dedicate significant, ongoing investment and resources towards the pre-opening and opening of Baha Mar Resort. We will also ensure that the Bahamian people and the region benefit fully from the project, which will create tremendous job and economic stimulus opportunities. Further, by combining our global hospitality expertise with the vibrant and authentic Bahamian culture, we will create a memorable, unmatched experience for guests of which all Bahamians can be proud."
In its statement CTFE said it is in discussions with several hospitality brands to be luxury hotel operators at Baha Mar, including Grand Hyatt, SLS Hotels, and CTFE subsidiary, Rosewood Hotel Group, which was an early participant in the scheme before its troubles.
To prepare for opening CTFE is hiring a leadership team of executives from internationally recognized brands, the company said. It plans to begin recruiting employees for the casino in the New Year and is also in discussions to form marketing alliances with leading global gaming companies.
CTFE and affiliated companies are involved in large-scale developments including the $10bn-plus Greenwich Peninsula development in London, Queen’s Wharf Brisbane, and a deluxe casino hotel development in Metro Manila, in the Philippines.