Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Two new prospects for Palmyra

Published:Wednesday | April 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM
A section of Palmyra Resort & Spa while it was under construction.

Two prospective buyers, one originating in Europe and the other in North America, are now reviewing the Palmyra resort development in St James with a view to acquiring the beachfront property that National Commercial Bank Jamaica (NCB) otherwise confirmed Tuesday was still on the market for sale.

The bank declined to comment on circulating reports that it was negotiating an agreement with developer Robert Trotta, saying it does not, as a matter of policy, comment on issues involving clients.

NCB and RBC Jamaica took over Palmyra in 2011 and placed it in receivership after Trotta's companies were alleged to have fallen into arrears on US$110 million of loans.

Sandra Watson, CEO of the Real Estate Board, said last Friday that the board had been approached about the possibility of a timeshare programme at Palmyra, and that while the person said they hoped to pursue the project with Trotta, she had not spoken directly with the developer on the issue.

The board is the designated secretariat for timeshare developments, but it is also representing the interest of depositors in the incomplete condominium development.

prospective buyer withdraws

Several attempts by receiver Ken Tomlinson to offload the property since 2012 have failed - the last prospective buyer from New York, Philangco Corp, quietly withdrew its US$120m bid last July.

The whiff of a deal in the making comes as Trotta himself awaits a decision by the Ministry of Finance on whether his bid for a casino resort development, through Celebration Jamaica, will be green-lighted.

Asked whether he was working out a deal with NCB, Trotta said Friday: "I am just unable to comment on that at all, right now." while adding that he might have something to say in the future.

On Tuesday, a manager at NCB, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday the only comment the bank could proffer was that the property was still on the market.

Otherwise, a response channelled through the bank's communications department stated: "As part of our customer service policy, we do not comment publicly on the business of our clients." Other sources said two buyers were interested.

Celebration Jamaica's Chairman Don Mills has previously said the casino resort bid was unconnected to the Palmyra project.

There is at least one link to the Celebration name, however. A notice of transfer of debentures filed with the Companies Office of Jamaica registrar indicates that RBC Cayman now holds a "guarantee debenture" issued by Celebration Jamaica Limited as security for the borrowings of companies used to finance the Palmyra project.

Trotta and his partners, if successful in securing a development order for the casino resort, will be required to invest at least US$1.2 billion in the complex. Celebration Jamaica has said it plans to spend US$450 million on the first phase of its project.

Celebration Chairman Don Mills has previously said that both projects are fully independent of each other in terms of their financing, project management, boards of directors, and operations.

Celebration's integrated casino project includes 2,000 hotel rooms, a 75,000-square-foot Casino & Sports Book complex; retail space; artisan village; a Caribbean World Music Entertainment Complex; and other facilities.

A decision for casino resort approvals by the Ministry of Finance has been pending since September 2014.