A sale of the long-languishing Casique Hotel and Banquet Hall at Providence, East Bank Demerara to Chinese logging company Bai Shan Lin is being finalised, multiple sources have confirmed.
“There is an agreement (for the sale) between the two parties,” a source with knowledge of the transaction told Stabroek News. The source said that details are being finalized as the issue of government financing to the hotel is still to be dealt with and “resolved in some way.” The Chinese firm has already set up its offices in the building and a number of workers were seen there during a visit by Stabroek News to the property yesterday. When approached, officials there indicated that they could not speak English.
Stabroek News was told that the agreement for the sale was reached earlier this year. The hotel was first put on sale six years ago.
Controversy has plagued the Casique Hotel ever since the government advanced the investors a sum of $33.7 million to assist in the completion of the facilities in time for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. This sum was meant as an advance payment for rooms that would have been occupied by officials during the tournament. The hotel was not completed in time for the World Cup and remained in an incomplete state as the investors were faced with financial difficulties.
When the advance on the rooms was made available, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr Frank Anthony had said that there were guarantees that in the event that the investors could not repay the money the funds could be recovered by other means. The options included the investors selling the property to a buyer who could undertake to repay the government, the investors themselves selling the property and repaying the government from the sale of the property, or the government taking over the property and compensating the investors for their contribution to the project.
In 2009, the Bharrat Jagdeo administration announced that it would finance the completion of the hotel following the signing of an agreement with the investors Casique International Hotel Inc. It is not clear how much the state has invested in the completion of this hotel but the structure is still not complete. Construction material including sand and stone were seen outside the building yesterday.
Initially it was intended that the investment by the investors would be in the sum of US$3.5 million. It was reported that the sellers were seeking US$5 million for the property. Stabroek News was told that Keith Burrowes, the manager of the Guyana Co-operative Financial Services – the agency set up by government to administer debt collection from outstanding loans granted by the now wound-up Guyana National Cooperative Bank, (GNCB) – handled the sale and represented government and as well, had the full authority to represent the interest of the investors.
After first being put up for sale in June 2008, the Casique hotel was re-advertised for sale in March 2011 and then again in February 2012.
According to the ad, the property features a modern five-storey hotel and entertainment complex with land measuring approximately 226,512 square feet. The main building features very modern aesthetics with over 100,000 square feet of floor space comprising three blocks. The advertisement said that Block A comprises a basement and five-above service floors which comprise 48 suites and apartments, restaurant and kitchen and which are serviced by an elevator.
Block B comprises the rotunda rising to the same height as Block A, and which is also serviced by the elevator and designed to accommodate offices and shops on upper floors, Internet facilities on upper floors and a restaurant, bar and musical entertainment on the ground floor.
Block C is made up of two banquet and conference halls, a pool (not constructed), poolside bar and the main entrance, reception and lobby area.
It is not clear how much Bai Shan Lin (BSL) will pay for the property. BSL has announced big plans in various sectors for Guyana but concerns have been raised by some analysts that its primary interest is logs for export with little downstream processing. BSL’s access to key parts of the economy have also raised questions about the regulation of its business by the forestry commission and associated bodies. Its holdings in Guyana includes forest concessions amounting to 960,000 hectares, a 20-kilometre river gold mining concession, a 5 km2 construction area for a Guyana-China Timber Industry Economic and Trading Co-operation Park and 400-acres land for real estate development.
BSL earlier this month applied to the Environ-mental Protection Agency (EPA) for permission to begin large-scale logging and sawmilling operations at its forest concessions in Regions Six and Nine.