Bankrupt Bahamas megaresort sold; phased opening in April
NASSAU - Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie on Monday announced that the Chinese-financed multibillion-dollar megaresort Baha Mar has been sold to CTF BM Holdings Limited, a subsidiary of Hong Kong conglomerate Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Limited (CTFE) and said the executed sale and purchase agreement represents a “significant achievement for The Bahamas, and a milestone in the troubled history of the Baha Mar resort”.
Christie said that, while a sale and purchase agreement has been executed, there still remain “outstanding conditions and negotiations between the bank (Export-Import Bank of China – CEXIM), which financed the project) and CTF for various ancillary agreements”.
Ousted Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware in June 2014, but all related cases have since been dismissed.
Speaking to the chronology of events since March 2014, Christie insisted that he and his administration have worked day and night to see the project remobilized, completed and opened and the money owed to former employees, creditors and contractors settled.
He said these objectives were embedded in the heads of agreement signed by the government, the bank, Perfect Luck Claims Limited and Perfect Luck Assets Limited in August.
The agreement has seen nearly 2,000 terminated employees paid, and hundreds of creditors’ claims settled to date.
Christie revealed that CEXIM committed $101.5 million to the payout exercise, which was provided as ex-gratia settlements to former employees and creditors.
He said that the claims committee overseeing the payout exercise, headed by former minister of state for finance James Smith, has concluded nearly 90 percent of the claims of unsecured creditors.
The government has said it hopes to conclude the payout process by the end of the year.
Christie acknowledged that the August agreement with CEXIM remains sealed by the Supreme Court, a move that caused great backlash.
Though Baha Mar receiver manager Ray Winder said in August that the parties requested the documents be sealed, Christie said on Monday that it was CEXIM that requested for the Supreme Court to seal the agreement, as is normal.
“Much has been made of the fact that the arrangements remain under seal in the Supreme Court of The Bahamas,” Christie said.
“The application to have the documents sealed was made by the Export-Import Bank of China. As I have advised in a previous communication, a request for documents of this nature to remain sealed is not unusual, particularly in [a] transaction of this complexity, scale, and most importantly, international market sensitivity.
“The Bahamian Supreme Court approved the sealing of the documents to assist in ensuring that the parties secure the best outcome for the property.
“... Maintaining all court filed documents under seal enables the bank and CTF to finalize these sensitive negotiations with the normal business confidences that one would expect.”
The prime minister also said the government and Bahamian utility companies such as Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) have received payment from CEXIM for “some of their unsecured outstanding claims”.
But Christie did not provide specifics.
According to court documents, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation was owed $19.5 million, while Cable Bahamas was owed $1.4 million.
CTF is expected to receive the concessions provided to Baha Mar as applicable, according to the prime minister.
He said the government intends to enter a heads of agreement with CTF to outline all obligations and concessions provided, all of which will be tabled in Parliament, once executed, to ensure transparency and accountability.
“I seize this opportunity to make all Bahamians aware that my government is not deaf to the gossip and speculation and downright false allegations that have been concocted surrounding the Baha Mar dispute, its history and its progress,” Christie stressed.
“Amidst such sensitive negotiations, this government thought it wise not to offer a running commentary on the discussions, and moreover, not to say anything that might put the future of the project in jeopardy.
“It’s a shame that so many uninformed views were promoted.
“The last few weeks have involved a herculean effort and everyone involved did what it took to dive across the finish line.”
He insisted that CTF and its operating companies will have to meet the normal due diligence requirements of the government, including a “rigorous investigation and licensing process of the Gaming Board with respect to its casino operations”.
Christie said the project is on schedule for a phased opening in April 2017.
He recently announced the “imminent hiring” of 1,500 employees in the new year to coincide with the mega resort’s phased opening.
By Royston Jones Jr.
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter