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Grand Lucayan 'Turn Over' Before End-20

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Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson. Photo: Tim Aylen/SURGE Media

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Cabinet minister yesterday voiced optimism that the Grand Lucayan will be "fully turned over" to the ITM Group/Royal Caribbean joint venture before year-end 2020.

Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama, said in his national address that the duo's partnership, known as Holistica, remains "committed" to the hotel's transformation and that of Freeport Harbour but the project's start will be delayed due to COVID-19.

"We are currently reviewing their post COVID-19 development plans and hope to fully turn over the hotel property before the end of the year," he said, although few specifics or new details were provided.

Tribune Business previously revealed that the Government was hoping to close the Grand Lucayan's sale by December 10, but this will not happen until Royal Caribbean and its joint venture partner have sealed the deal for Freeport Harbour.

Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, previously confirmed that ITM Group and the cruise line want to seal "the entire transaction at once" to protect their commercial interests and not hand an advantage to either Freeport Harbour Company or the Government.

"We would obviously like to conclude the entire transaction at the same time," Mr D'Aguilar told this newspaper. "So, yes, ITM wants to conclude the entire transaction at once. They don't want to close on one part of the deal and the other part of the deal is still pending."

The minister's confirmation adds another twist to long-running negotiations that are attempting to get an agreement perceived as vital to Freeport's economic and tourism revival over the line amid the devastation inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ITM Group/Royal Caribbean joint venture, known as Holistica, is understandably reluctant to close the Grand Lucayan's purchase without first sealing an agreement with Freeport Harbour Company, and its 50 percent shareholder and manager, Hutchison Whampoa.

Securing the hotel without the harbour, and the proposed additional cruise berths and water-based adventure theme park, would hand the advantage to Hutchison. Knowing that ITM/Royal Caribbean will now be desperate to tie down terms for the harbour to complement the Grand Lucayan, Hutchison could seek to alter the deal to its commercial advantage and extract extra concessions from the joint venture.

Thus ITM/Royal Caribbean's interest in sealing both aspects of its $300m project simultaneously. However, sources familiar with developments, speaking on condition of anonymity, argued that the Government has done too little to push Freeport Harbour Company and Hutchison to close their end of a complex deal.

Mr Thompson, meanwhile, said Carnival Cruise Line's separate port project was in the permitting stage, with the Government awaiting receipt of the cruise line's post-COVID-19 plans. "It is expected that the project will lead to 1,000 jobs during construction and between 500 and 1,000 jobs post-construction," he added.

There was also little new with respect to Grand Bahama International Airport, where talks with Hutchison Port Holdings and the Grand Bahama Port Authority were continuing in a bid to "reach an agreement on the best way forward in rebuilding a world-class airport".

"In the interim, a temporary structure is open and fully functional, operating regular daily international and domestic flights. However, in addition to the existing facility work continues to proceed on the expansion of the temporary facility. This new facility is 8,500 square feet, adding to the existing 8,200 square foot facility," Mr Thompson said.

"Once completed there will be 350 seats total, and a new combined Customs and Immigration arrival hall. The airport will be able to accommodate some 350-400 passengers. The project is currently more than 85 percent completed.

"The airport will require a long-term sustainable rebuilding plan. It has been destroyed by hurricanes several times. The airport has been rebuilt three times in the last seven years,. which signifies that a greater plan must be put into place. However, even as we work toward the final product, we are indeed accessible."

Comments

Economist 1 year ago

This man does not read the financial news.

Royal Caribbean and Carnival are holding on to their ships as best they can, even after raising extra capital, they don't have any money for other investments right now.

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tribanon 1 year ago

Suggest you read more carefully. The ITM Group/Royal Caribbean joint venture no longer needs any cash to acquire the Grand Lucayan. As boogie-eyed kwasi Thompson succintly puts it, Minnis and D'aguilar now propose that government simply "turn over" over the property for zilch. That's right, for absolutely nothing...nada!

Someone's gonna have a very big fat pay-day in this most unusual transaction, and it's certainly not gonna be the Bahamian people.

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proudloudandfnm 1 year ago

I'm gonna say Kwasi is lying thru his teeth. Very doubtful it'll close in the next 6 weeks. And if it did then Freeport is in deep trouble, RCCL is going to need a year or two hell maybe even three to get back on its feet. And nothing will happen to that resort until they are back on their feet....

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birdiestrachan 1 year ago

Mr: Thompson is a stranger to the TRUTH.

They say he is a Deacon

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TalRussell 1 year ago

Did some comrade resend a request to the redcoat's Freeport Fiddler Kwasi to replay his original tune, "Trust Me. The Grand Lucayan Botched Sale, It Goin Flip-Over On Its Ass Before End 2020," Shakehead once for Yeah what original FU##ED-up lyrics to the song wrotten by the red senator, Twice for Not?

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birdiestrachan 1 year ago

Why did the FNM Government pay $65 million to Hutchison? pay Hutchison staff redundancy when Caribbean Cruise could have purchased the hotel from Hutchison it was for sale. The Government is not a real estate agency.

Hutchison saw them coming. it was like taking milk from a baby

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BahamaPundit 1 year ago

There is no logic that I can think of, other than side deals. But, who knows.

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TalRussell 1 year ago

Incorrect you are my comrade, the government didn't pay $65 million to Hutchison for The Grand Lucayan. Far from $65 million.
Hardly but this lone comrade soul paid any close attention to Senator Kwasi's nervousness twitch immediately following the reporter who did so skillfully slid him clear question about getting an update on OBAN's 2020 progress?

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JohnBrown1834 1 year ago

The article does not state who is funding the redevelopment of the airport and who the owner will be.

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