Marriott investor still a mystery

…five months from projected opening

With five months left before its projected opening, the Marriott Hotel project is still without an investor and work appears to have slowed down.

CEO of Atlantic Hotels Incorporated (AHI), Winston Brassington, had said that the name of the US$8 million equity, private investor would have been made public since the end of 2013, but three months into the New Year there has been no word on who this person is. There had been earlier assurances that the investor would be named even before the end of last year.

Sources say the delay in the announcement of the investor points to the weak hand that the government is playing with and the likelihood that a deal largely in favour of the investor was in the making. Most recently Stabroek News was told that by the end of this month, AHI would be releasing a statement and providing further details on the private equity investor. Stabroek News has contacted Brassington on a number of occasions to solicit information on the private investor.

Not only has the private investor not been named, but the project is yet to secure financing from Republic Bank of Trinidad and Tobago which is said to be providing a loan of US$27 million. Government holding company, NICIL is said to be putting up just under US$20 million in financing for the project, with US$4 million constituting equity. The operator for the hotel’s entertainment complex, which will cost approximately US$4 million, has also not been identified.

As it stands, with the exception of NICIL’s contribution none of the other financing has been made public or secured for the project.

This newspaper has also inquired with the head of AHI, which was incorporated in 2009 to facilitate the public-private partnership, for a breakdown of all works being done via local contractors on the project. There had been concerns from the inception of the project that only Chinese workers were participating in the construction. China’s Shanghai Construction Group is building the hotel.

While there has been significant pressure from the political opposition and general public interest, AHI has still not been able to confirm that a final deal has been struck or to identify the investor.

Previously, Brassington had stated that the investor wished to remain anonymous until other funding had been secured. However, the private investor will be the majority shareholder while only committing US$8 million of the US$12 million in equity for the US$58 million project.

Brassington had previously defended the government contribution to the project noting that the government’s investment was needed to jump start the project. He had not commented on the contention that since public funds were being utilised that the public had a right to be told upfront about the identity of the investor, how monies were to be allocated and where additional financing was coming from. NICIL as part of its near US$20 million investment will be putting up US$15.5 million or one third of the debt.

In November of last year Marriott International inspected a number of completed sample rooms at Kingston. Brassington has stated that feedback from Marriott International representatives was positive.

The Marriott Project does have a ways to go not only in terms of financing, but in terms of construction; the project will need to ensure that building is done to the expectation of Marriott International in order for the branding to be approved.

Meanwhile, work at the site has slowed, but on-site consultants have told Stabroek News that over 150 persons were on the job during the day and that interior works were being done. This newspaper was made to understand that duct work for air conditioning was currently ongoing.

Stabroek News was also told that drainage issues were being worked on and these works were being primarily done by a local team.

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