After Chinese Export Import Bank (EXIM) in effect purchased Baha Mar from themselves using a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) named Perfect Luck Holdings Limited, it was announced Thursday that Chow Tai Fook Enterprise Limited (CTFE) is in negotiations to acquire the more than $3 billion unfinished casino resort in the Bahamas.
CTFE is a Hong Kong listed company that made its fortunes in jewelry and real estate, founded by recently deceased Cheng Yu-tung who was listed by Forbes last month as the third richest person in Hong Kong with a worth of about US$16.6 billion.
In a press release yesterday CTFE said that it had entered into negotiations in connection with the ownership of Baha Mar. “CTFE is looking forward to having Baha Mar join its portfolio of world-class integrated resort development projects,” said Dr. Henry Cheng, Chairman of CTFE. “We are fully committed to this project and plan to hire as many Bahamians as possible to work at the property.”
Chow Tai Fook company, Rosewood Hotel Group has had a relationship with Baha Mar since 2011. In August 2015 Rosewood reportedly asked to be let out of their licensing deal with Baha Mar but remained silent after that.
The press release indicated that hotel management will occur under the original plan of independent operation by brand, rather than by a single operator.
According to marketing by Colliers International, the resort has been “substantially completed”. In March it was reported that in order to access financials for the project, interested parties would need to deposit $50,000, provide bonafide proof of financial ability, and sign a nondisclosure agreement – all normal procedures for those wishing to purchase a casino, especially of this magnitude.
No price was given in the March reports for the 1,000-acre resort with over 2,000 hotel rooms, a casino, quarter million sq ft convention center, and Jack Nicklaus golf course. About $3 billion had already been invested in the property when it shut down construction after missing several target opening dates.
Earlier this month, before the EXIM/SPV transfer was announced, original developer BMD Holdings Limited’s Sarkis Izmirlian wrote Vice Chairman and President of EXIM, Mr. Liu Liange, announcing that his company was prepared to beat the price of the undisclosed offer, pay 100% of all substantiated Bahamian claims and everything owed to Bahamian and expat employees. Prime Minister Perry Christie received a copy of the letter and announced that Mr. Izmirlian, “should engage seriously with Perfect Luck and its advisors.”
Although many analysts believe that the CTFE development means that PM Christie’s earlier assurances that the complex would be sold to a “world-class” hotel and casino operator were well-informed, due to secrecy surrounding the negotiations and the courts’ so-far refusal to expose internal negotiations, it may never be known if the Rosewood affiliated company is the one spoken of. Rosewood Hotel Group manages 55 hotels in 18 countries under three different brands and CTFE has casino interests as well.
In June our affiliate MacauCasinos.com reported that the Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd. had reported a full-year profit drop of 46 percent for the 12 month period ending March 31, but the conglomerate’s assets are well diversified.
In late December 2015, Mingtiandi, a Chinese real estate intelligence publication, reported that Evergrande had purchased $5.3 billion worth of properties from New World Group, which is controlled by Cheng Yu-tung’s family (Chow Tai Fook).
Chow Tai Fook is a partner in the A$3 billion Queen’s Wharf casino complex in Brisbane, Australia with Star (formerly Echo) Entertainment and Far East Consortium International Limited. They also broke ground this April, in association with Vina Capital and Macau junket operator SunCity Group on the $4 billion dollar Nam Hoi An Casino Resort in Vietnam. In early 2015 it was reported that the company was planning to invest $2.6 billion in a casino resort in the Incheon Free Economic Zone near South Korea’s busiest airport.
CTFE seems supremely confident in closing the Baha Mar deal. According to the press release, “CTFE is dedicated to the successful opening of Baha Mar and will work with the government to achieve the goal of a phased opening,” the statement said. “As part of the company’s commitment to the project and the Bahamas in the immediate term, CTFE will invest millions ahead of the official deal completion through pre-opening activities and employment – which has already commenced and will be expanded in the coming weeks and months.”