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Baha Mar Warns Chinese Partner: On ‘Discontent’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Baha Mar’s owner yesterday called on its Chinese construction partner to meet its obligations to get the $3.5 billion destination resort open, urging it to recognise the “discontent” it is causing in the Bahamas.

Sarkis Izmirlian, the developer’s chairman and chief executive, warned that it was up to China Construction America (CCA) to determine “how this next chapter” in Baha Mar’s history “will be written”.

Addressing the National Conclave of Bahamas Chambers of Commerce, Mr Izmirlian alluded to the frosty relations between Baha Mar and its Chinese partners, saying the Cable Beach redevelopment was “supposed to be the symbol of international co-operation”.

Deliberately staying away from committing to a new Baha Mar opening date, given that the project has already missed two, Mr Izmirlian promised that the development would eventually swing open its doors.

The developer has now pushed back its ‘grand opening’ to May, but a Tribune Business search of Baha Mar’s website said ‘room availability’ at its 1,000 room flagship casino hotel would only start from July 1.

“Our general contractor needs to meet its assurances so we are in a position to properly open this world-class destination resort,” Mr Izmirlian told the Conclave’s luncheon yesterday.

“Indeed, this amazing property is supposed to be the symbol of international co-operation. It is now up to our general contractor to decide how this next chapter will be written.

“We sincerely hope they [CCA] understand this, and are realising the discontent, and concerns, about their performance from numerous quarters, including us as owners, the Government of the Bahamas, and the people of the Bahamas.”

Baha Mar previously blamed CCA’s failure to meet construction timelines and schedules, and complete work to the necessary quality and standards, for its decision to postpone its planned March 27 ‘soft’ opening.

CCA, a subsidiary of the state-owned China State Construction and Engineering Company, hit back by slamming Baha Mar’s public comments as “totally inappropriate”. Relations between the two parties, which both sit around the Baha Mar Board table as a result of CCA’s $150 million equity stake, subsequently plummeted to a new low.

Mr Izmirlian, though, was not averse to a joke at his and Baha Mar’s expense. With the Conclave’s luncheon starting more than one hour late, he said: “I was going to give the organisers some grief about being late, but who am I to complain about being late?”

The Baha Mar chief said construction work on the $3.5 billion project had created more than 4,700 Bahamian jobs, and employed 350 local companies who had been awarded a collective $670 million in contracts.

And Mr Izmirlian said the 12,000 direct and indirect jobs Baha Mar is projected to create when open was equivalent to 10 million new jobs in the US, when the respective population sizes were accounted for.

Baha Mar’s employment impact, he added, would be “more than double” the combined workforce of America’s top 10 employers, and five times’ that of the largest corporation, Wal-Mart.

Mr Izmirlian said Baha Mar’s estimated 12 per cent GDP contribution dwarfed Apple’s less than 1 per cent US GDP contribution.

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