The prime minister of the Bahamas insists that a deal has been struck to rescue the stalled $3.5b Baha Mar resort casino, but even he may not know who bought the white elephant.
Last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie informed parliament that Baha Mar’s receiver, the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM), had signed a deal that would see the property’s new owner assume ownership and restart work on the unfinished project by mid-September.
However, Christie declined to reveal the name of the new owner and had the Supreme Court seal all documents relating to the sale. On Monday, Christie appeared on a local radio talk show and suggested that even his government hasn’t been informed of the buyer’s identity.
Christie insisted that there would be “full and frank disclosure” of the deal once all the details have been worked out to everyone’s satisfaction. That includes the Bahamian government, which must still “determine the fitness of the group to be able to own property in the Bahamas and to administer the property.”
Christie said the government would conduct a “very, very, very full investigation of the applicant and its business affairs worldwide.” Christie had previously hinted that the buyer was a “world-class hotel and casino operator” but has offered no further details.
In June, Christie said two parties had been shortlisted as “preferred bidders” to take over Baha Mar. One of these bidders was said to have a “Bahamian investor connection,” prompting speculation that Christie was referring to Sun International founder Sol Kerzner, who had previously expressed interest in kicking Baha Mar’s tires.
Assuming all goes according to plan, Christie believes China Construction America, the property’s main contractor, will resume work on Baha Mar in mid-September. The oft-delayed project is now expected to open to the public no later than the end of the 2016-17 winter season.
In addition to EXIM collecting on the $2.45b it advanced the project and CCA collecting on moneys it claims to be owed by project’s former owners Baha Mar Ltd, Christie insists that local contractors stand to collect “a significant part and possibly all” of the estimated $74m they were owed when Baha Mar Ltd filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2015.
Christie also claimed that the thousands of resort staffers who were laid off last October would receive “unpaid salaries, severance pay, accrued vacation pay and notice payments due to termination,” as well as the repayment of former employees’ salaries and pension contributions.