By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A Bahamian financier yesterday revealed a $150bn asset management firm last year offered to invest $200m in rebuilding Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA) and developing a cargo hub at the site.
Robert Pantry, Simplifie Lending’s founder and chief executive, told the Grand Bahama Business Outlook conference: “There’s a lot of interest out there to acquire the Grand Bahama International Airport. This will be a key factor to help heat things up on the island.
“I also think that starting off with a clean slate presents the successful bidder with an opportunity to work with key stakeholders to help lower the costs of flying into Grand Bahama and bring more tourists to help scale up. Secondly, it’s not a matter of if, but when, the Grand Lucayan hotel will be sold. It will happen and, when it does, in combination with the airport being rebuilt, you will make nothing but an upward trajectory.”
Mr Pantry continued: “I will also share with you some other facts that my company, Simplified Lending, has been a part of facilitating with respect to the island. First, there’s an American global asset management firm that specialises in alternative investments with in excess of $150bn in assets under management who, by way of joint venture partnership, would have sent in an unsolicited proposal about a year ago to invest over $200m to acquire the Grand Bahama International Airport and build a cargo facility on Grand Bahama.”
“This level of confidence by such a major firm speaks to how people and institutions, once exposed to Grand Bahama, turn around and seek to invest. I can also tell you that interest remained strong.” The cargo facility plan was influenced by the availability of land which would facilitate expansion over a 20-year period.
Mr Pantry added: “There’s a Grand Bahama company that is relatively new, but received two term sheets in the past few months in excess of $3m each, to fund their growth in Grand Bahama. One term sheet was issued by one of our regional partners who made one of those trips with me. I can tell you that they were excited about the prospects of investing in Grand Bahama.”
Gowon Bowe, Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) chief executive, added that Grand Bahama needs to have a “rolling prospectus document” on the opportunities on the island in terms of its “revenue and potential”.
He said: “We need to eliminate the ambiguity with Freeport in terms of whether it is a free trade zone with clear government regulation, or it’s a private city. I would vote for it being a free trade zone with government regulation.”
Mr Bowe added that Freeport needs to look at replacing its “concessions regime”, and further said there must be an examination of the costs and benefits as to whether these incentives would be beneficial to opening up other opportunities on Grand Bahama.
He said: “Grand Bahama has always had natural infrastructure, and certainly is the industrial capital of The Bahamas. We need to be thinking about ownership, and not just employment, with Grand Bahama. But we need to put all of these down in writing so that we have the very clear plans of what it is we’re going to do.”