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Former Baha Mar owner challenged to put up credible offer for resort

Published:Wednesday | October 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM
The lobby of the casino at the unfinished Baha Mar resort in The Bahamas is shown in this 2015 photo.

The Bahamas government says it aims to ensure that the Baha Mar project is sold to a world-class hotel and casino operator, amid criticisms from the former developer.

The assets of the bankrupt resort developer were acquired by China Export Import Bank using a special purpose vehicle called Perfect Luck Holdings Limited. Under the court-approved transaction, the bank, which has around US$2.45 billion of debt tied up in the project according to local reports, is expected to sell its interest to a bidder for the resort project at a future date.

Citing a letter critical of the process, said to be written by the former developer, Sarkis Izmirlian, to the vice-chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of China, Liu Liange, the Perry Christie government said the correspondence contained extraordinary statements to which it felt compelled to respond.

"Normally, the government would not respond to such a letter and statement but so far as it impacts on what the government has achieved, which is well documented, in ensuring that the Baha Mar development is finished and Bahamian creditors paid, the government is compelled to give this statement," Nassau said in a release.

It said the assets of Baha Mar were acquired by Perfect Luck Holdings following a lengthy process managed by the receivers and "overseen and approved by The Bahamas Supreme Court".




"At each stage of the process ... Mr Izmirlian has had the opportunity to participate in discussions and the process surrounding the future of the resort," said the Christie administration.

"If, as he states, Mr Izmirlian is in a position to, and wishes to work with EXIM to deliver Baha Mar for the Bahamian people, then he should engage seriously with Perfect Luck and its advisers. If he is in a position to make a credible proposal to acquire Baha Mar from Perfect Luck, then he is free to do so."

Opposition parties have been pushing for the Christie administration to disclose the sale for US$3.5 billion Baha Mar project, which is expected to feature a Las Vegas-style casino and more than 2,000 hotel rooms.

The project stalled after running out of money and last year, Baha Mar filed for bankruptcy protection in Delaware, blaming the contractor, China Construction America Bahamas, for the delays.

"Now that the assets are owned by Perfect Luck, that company may sell the resort to whomever it wishes, subject to the proposed purchaser being acceptable to the Government and other bodies performing their public function," said The Bahamas government in response to Izmirlian's letter.

The Christie administration said that, after much hard work, the project is back on track, a substantial fund has been established by China EXIM for the payment of creditors' claims and former Baha Mar Bahamian employees.

"Those were two of the prime minister's three stated primary objectives and they have been achieved. The third objective is to ensure that Baha Mar is sold to a world-class hotel and casino operator. The Government of The Bahamas will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that this objective is fulfilled, in the very best interest of the economy and the people of The Bahamas."