Executive Director of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington has denied the sale of the under construction Marriott Hotel building to a British Virgin Islands-based investor but says that a deal with a foreign investor is in the closing stages.
Brassington’s denial was made in a statement yesterday in response to a Stabroek News report published on Friday.
In a press release sent to this newspaper, NICIL said the contents of the article, entitled ‘BVI-based company offering to buy Marriott building,’ published on Friday, are an inaccurate reflection of where the project stands to date.
“However, it has become a norm and acceptable for politicians and journalists to ignore the truth or facts in order to create doubt and mistrust in public officers, projects and general progress,” the release said, while noting that the claims made in the article “are absolutely untrue.”
Member of Parliament for the Alliance for Change (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan told this newspaper last week that an investor based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has been identified to purchase the building. He said that while the potential investor wants to buy the structure for what government has spent so far on it – about $2 billion or US$10 million – the government is demanding a lot more than that and the deal is yet to be settled.
“They (government) are not finding the syndicated lenders and the investors with the money to complete the hotel. Government is said to be preparing to sell what it has. The money has been used up and the contractor is stalling now,” said Ramjattan. “The [BVI] investors are saying if you spent US$10 million on it sell it to us for that amount and we will fix it,” he also said.
Brassington, Chairman of special multipurpose company Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI), earlier in the day told Stabroek News that AHI is in the closing stages of a deal with a foreign investor and that the name of this investor will be announced when there is financial closure.
“We have entered into an agreement with an investor. Once the transaction is closed, we will make an announcement,” Brassington told Stabroek News in a brief telephone interview yesterday.
“We have executed an agreement with a majority investor,” he said, declining to reveal any other details about the investor.
The NICIL release stated that in general, private investors are usually reluctant to make premature public disclosures about their business and in this case there is greater apprehension to do so, given the hostile and unwelcoming political environment created by the opposition parties. Nevertheless, it added, the private investor is aware, and acknowledges, that given its intended relationship with the government, it will be required to make a public announcement which it is prepared to do at the appropriate time.
“Construction to the Marriott Hotel and Entertainment Complex remains a priority for the Government of Guyana. While construction to the outer shell of the building is complete, design works on the interior continues requiring great care and review in order to ensure that all aspects of design and construction achieve the Marriott standards for functionality and operations,” the release said.
Brassington yesterday noted that the investor government has been engaging is expected to be a majority stakeholder in the project. He would neither confirm nor deny that the investor is incorporated in the BVI, noting that many investors are incorporated in that particular British overseas territory.
Brassington blasted this newspaper for what he called negative reporting on the Marriott Hotel and other national government-backed projects. He blamed the media for the difficulties in which many of the government projects are in, saying that the reports published have not been helpful. “A lot more progress would have been made had it not been for the constant negative media reports,” he said.
In recent weeks, work on what was supposed to be the Marriott-managed hotel in Kingston seems to have slowed down significantly. However, the contractor is still on site.
AHI was incorporated on September 10, 2009 as a public private partnership to engage in development of the hospitality sector, including the construction, ownership and operation of a five-star international hotel. Overall, government will provide 1/3 of the project funding with the balance in subordinate loan stock. Republic Bank will provide US$27 million of senior debt to the project. Collectively, the total common equity of AHI will amount to US$12 million and the government via NICIL will be a minority partner owning 33% of AHI’s equity, amounting to US$4 million.
In November 2011, the sod was turned for the project and the Chinese company Shanghai Construction Group awarded the contract for the construction of the hotel.