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Villa Ronai lifestyle village opening pushed back to 2021

Published:Friday | September 4, 2020 | 12:22 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter

Commissioning of the first phase of Pulse’s Villa Ronai expansion was planned for this summer, but the opening has now been pushed back to early 2021.

That and other areas of the company’s operations have been disrupted by the coronavirus that caused the near total lockdown of Jamaica’s hospitality market for nearly thee months, but so far Pulse Investments Limited has come through it with revenues pressured, but earnings intact.

The modelling and hospitality company had another record year of profit, $840 million, for year ending June 2020, its newly released results show.

Pulse last year raised $250 million from a bond issue, $185 million of which was used to complete the Villa Ronai expansion project and to lay the ground for Pulse Investments’ entry into residential real estate development. Its first development is to be called Pulse Homes.

Pulse Executive Chairman Kingsley Cooper told the Financial Gleaner that while the architectural drawings for Pulse Homes are being finalised for submission to the municipal authority, the company was waiting for the pandemic to subside somewhat before pressing ahead with the project.

The new lifestyle village being developed at Villa Ronai consists of 68 suites, spa, and a wedding and fashion centre.

On its completion, Cooper had projected occupancy of 70 per cent in the first year, and to eventually generate approximately US$2.5 million in annual revenue.

But those targets have since been revised because of the coronavirus-induced delays.

“Those projections would have changed because we are not looking at a full year any more. Our year ends June, and so I think we can project no more than 50 per cent, and even that may be ambitious,” he said.

“We are in a fortunate situation to not have been operating during this, because that would have left us carrying operational expenses at this time and no income. So we are not rushing the opening.”

While Cooper waits for a sense of normality to return, Pulse has been making up for lost revenues through expansion of its television shows Caribbean Fashion Weekly and the Caribbean Model Search reality TV series across the Caribbean and in international markets.

Stay-at-home protocols, according to Cooper, have driven up viewership of the TV series, but Pulse has also been working with broadcast partners in the Caribbean on generating interest in the programmes, including CBC in Barbados, Choice Media in St Lucia, TTT in Trinidad & Tobago, ABS in Antigua, NCN in Guyana, GBTV in Belize, ZNS in The Bahamas, as well as IRIE JAM media based in the United States.

TV revenues for the year ending June 2020 were up 24.2 per cent for the modelling and hospitality company.

Model commissions were down from nearly $60 million to $46 million.

Still, the group grew revenue overall by $58 million, from $620 million to $678 million. Pulse also closed the year with a 29 per cent improvement in profit, from $653 million to $840 million.

Pulse’s bottom line exceeded its revenue because a substantial portion of its earnings is booked as fair value gains on investment property, which amounted to $581 million this year and $435 million in 2019.