Tue | Dec 6, 2022

Barita buys Green Castle Estate in St Mary for $1.3b

Published:Friday | September 30, 2022 | 12:07 AMHuntley Medley - Associate Business Editor

Barita Investments Limited has pumped another $1.3 billion into its real estate portfolio, concluding late last month another major property acquisition – the nearly 1,000-acre Green Castle Estate on the St Mary coastline, adding to the stock...

Barita Investments Limited has pumped another $1.3 billion into its real estate portfolio, concluding late last month another major property acquisition – the nearly 1,000-acre Green Castle Estate on the St Mary coastline, adding to the stock brokerage and investment manager’s growing acreage of prime land in that and other parishes.

Barita has now shelled out over $11.3 billion on land acquisitions in just over a year. For the third quarter of its financial year to June 30 this year, Barita disclosed that it invested $1 billion in real estate. That’s on top of $9 billion it said it had invested in its property portfolio up to March.

Green Castle, with listed land size in excess of 957 acres, was transferred to Barita’s special-purpose real estate company MJR Real Estate Holdings Limited on August 24 for a transaction cost of US$8.5 million, National Land Agency titles office records show. It was bought from Green Castle Estate LLC of Minnetonka,

Minnesota, in the United States. In 1996, Green Castle Estate LLC had bought the land, along with three other parcels, for US$15 million from previous owners William and John MacMillan. The MacMillans had acquired the estate for US$444,146 in 1983.

The property is said to be complete with an estate house, cottage, staff houses, an apiary, an edible oil-producing coconut plantation, herds of cattle, untouched forest reserves, orchid houses, and a river and water reservoir. It stretches along two miles of beachfront bordering the community of Rosend, near Robin’s Bay in St Mary. A real estate promotional video seen by the Financial Gleaner suggests that the estate had been marketed for sale locally and overseas.

The property also includes the famous Blue Hole attraction, a sought-after hideaway popular for swimming, diving and its cascading waterfalls. It is located close to the Ian Fleming International Airport at Boscobel, with the proximity considered to be among the positive features feeding into what is thought to be the property’s vast potential for future development.

With the acquisition that had been rumoured to be in the making for months, Barita is upping the ante in what the fast-growing company has been touting as part of its long-term strategy to defy economic shocks, such as the pandemic-induced downturn, the current environment of high inflation and the low-interest climate that preceded the most recent spate of interest rate increases since September last year. It has also now offered its real estate-backed unit trust fund to investors.

Representatives of Barita did not respond to a request for comment up to press time.

The firm, which is part of the Cornerstone group, has been snapping up prime real estate, particularly along the St Mary and St Ann coastline for major residential, resort and commercial developments.

Recently, Barita bought several contiguous properties totalling about 250 acres and including the famous Reggae Beach at nearby Prospect in St Mary for US$16 million, or approximately $2.5 billion, from billionaire Michael Lee-Chin. Since MJR was incorporated just over a year ago, it has also purchased land in Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine, and is said to be hunting real estate in St Thomas.

The buildout of the Barita property portfolio, with big plans for residential, tourism, agriculture, renewable energy and other developments, has been aided by its amassing, before and during the pandemic, of $34.5 billion in equity funding between March 2019 and September 2021, as well as its burgeoning profits that hit a new record of $4 billion in FY2021.

huntley.medley@gleanerjm.com