International Business

When will stalled Bahamian mega-resort project Baha Mar be completed?

Baha Mar, which was largely financed and built by the Chinese government, has been embroiled in legal proceedings since last year. Construction of the $3.5 billion resort has largely been at a standstill.
Baha Mar, which was largely financed and built by the Chinese government, has been embroiled in legal proceedings since last year. Construction of the $3.5 billion resort has largely been at a standstill. Courtesy Baha Mar

It’s been nearly a year since construction stopped on Baha Mar when the mega resort complex on Nassau’s Cable Beach was 97 percent complete, and there's still no indication when work might resume on the $3.5 billion project.

The 1,000-acre resort, which includes a championship golf course, casino and four new hotels, was expected to provide a big boost for Bahamian tourism. Some projections had the resort, which was largely financed by China and built with Chinese labor, lifting the Bahamian economy by 12 percent when it was completed.

Several groups have been talking to the China Export-Import Bank, which financed $2.45 billion of the resort, in hopes of taking over and completing the troubled project.

But the resort’s original developer, BMD Holdings, also wants a crack at completing the resort. On Monday, the developer sent a letter to China Export-Import Bank trying to jog it into responding to a January proposal to get work going on the resort again.

Sarkis Izmirlian, BMD chief executive, said the development company was committed to opening the resort, paying unsecured creditors and making sure that China Exim Bank wouldn’t have to take a discount on its debt.

“Our offer stands, and we are prepared to invest the further funds necessary to open Baha Mar,” Izmirlian said in the letter. “With our offer, there is no reason to allow the property to continue to linger, to become further distressed,” and to incur further layoffs.

Although work on the resort has been virtually at a standstill since last year, the Bahamian government hired local workers to complete the Baha Mar Convention Center so it could be used to host the Inter-American Development Bank’s April 7-10 annual meeting. When the Bahamian government initially bid to host the IDB event, it had been expected that the entire resort would be open.

During the IDB meeting last week, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie said that a high-ranking Chinese delegation was coming to the Bahamas and the government would once again express its interest in getting construction going and opening Baha Mar.

Last June, Baha Mar filed for bankruptcy protection in Delaware, blaming the Chinese contractor, China Construction America, for the delays that caused the grand opening of the resort to be postponed several times. CCA has said it wasn’t responsible for the delays and attributed them to mismanagement by the developer.

The resort had originally been set to open in December 2014.

The bankruptcy filing was dismissed and provisional liquidators for the project were appointed last fall. Deloitte & Touche was subsequently appointed as a receiver for the China Export-Import Bank.

Last November, BMD said China Export-Import Bank’s appointment of a receiver had “moved Baha Mar further from completion” and was “destroying any hope that Baha Mar, as originally conceived for the Bahamas, can become a reality.”

In his letter to China Exim Bank, Izmirlian continued to complain about the receivership process: “Many have already commented that the sale process for Baha Mar launched by the receivers is opaque, fraught with obstacles and irregularities and is not designed to maximize value for all.”

Izmirlian said he has maintained the senior management team of Baha Mar since last year and they have the best chance of quickly opening Baha Mar.

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