Bahamas developer begs Chinese bank to intervene in stalled mega-resort

The developer of the gargantuan Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas this week called on the state-controlled China Export-Import Bank (Exim) to pressure the Chinese contractor building it to get a move on.

The mega resort and casino was to have bolstered the Caribbean nation’s economy and secured the reputation of a Chinese contractor seeking its fortunes in the Americas – but the project has soured amid rumours of cash running out, and has even drawn in the Bahamian prime minister and the Chinese ambassador.

The Baha Mar scheme includes four luxury hotels with a total of 2,000 rooms, a vast casino, more than 50 restaurants, 200,000 square feet of convention space and its own 18-hole golf course. 

It was originally supposed to open in December 2014, but the date was pushed back to March this year. Now the Baha Mar website is not taking bookings before September 2015.

In 2010 the China Exim Bank lent the project $2.4bn of the estimated $3.5bn total cost, and China Construction America (CCA), owned by the giant China State Construction Engineering Corporation, was picked as the main contractor.

They’ve invested a lot of money in this country, and do not want it deemed to be a failure– The Tribune

In a plea to intervene this week, developer Baha Mar Ltd described the Exim Bank as "more than a lender in this situation".

"It has strong ties to the general contractor, China State. We expect the bank can be very helpful in moving the construction of Baha Mar to completion in as timely a manner as possible," a Baha Mar spokesman said in a statement reported by Bahamian newspaper The Tribune.

In April Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie chaired a meeting of all parties involved in the development in a bid to get the project moving. Those present included the Chinese ambassador to the Bahamas, Baha Mar Ltd chairman Sarkis Izmirlian, and representatives from CCA.

Sources told The Tribune that CCA admitted during the meeting that they had slowed down work in the run-up to the planned March 27 opening because of a dispute with Baha Mar Ltd over pay it was due for work in February.

Several weeks later the newspaper quoted government sources as saying that Baha Mar had run out of cash to pay the contractor, a claim both Baha Mar Ltd and the prime minister denied.

Commenting on the plea to China Exim Bank, a Baha Mar Ltd source told The Tribune that failure at Baha Mar was not an option for the Chinese, "given their extensive investments in the Bahamas and wider region, and the reputation of their capital and construction companies".

"They’ve invested a lot of money in this country, and do not want it deemed to be a failure," the source said.

According to the newspaper, "well-placed construction industry sources" attributed the project’s woes to "a lack of planning and organisation" by both Baha Mar and CCA.

CCA wants to use the Baha Mar project as a launch pad for expansion in the Americas. It was aiming to be a top-ten contractor in the US, with a turnover of $5bn, by the end of this year.

However, it is currently ranked 82nd in Engineering News-Record’s top 400 US contractors list, and recorded revenue of approximately $1.7bn last year.

In April it launched a campaign to expand in Latin America by opening a new regional headquarters in Panama City. 

Attending the Panama launch was Bahamian deputy prime minister, Philip E. Brave Davis, which drew a stinging editorial rebuke from The Tribune, which complained that Davis should not be celebrating CCA’s activities in Panama when it "has left so much unfinished business here in the Bahamas".

Image: The Baha Mar scheme includes four luxury hotels with a total of 2,000 rooms, a vast casino, and more than 50 restaurants (Render from

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