… financing arrangements still incomplete, Govt. listed as minority shareholder
By Gary Eleazar
Almost eight years after being conceptualized and with the electorate going to the polls to elect a new government exactly one week from today, the outgoing Head of State, Bharrat Jagdeo and Area Vice President for the Marriot Brand of International Hotels, Andrew Houghton yesterday morning turned the sod signaling the start of the construction phase of the signature accommodation.
The sod turning ceremony was held at the site in Kingston prepared by the government for the hotel and was attended by several key members in society including Chairman of the Private Sector Commission Ramesh Dookhoo, former PSC Chairman and hotelier Captain Gerry Gouveia, Peoples Progressive Party Civic Presidential Candidate Donald Ramotar, Attorney General Charles Ramson Senior, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, and personal friend of President Jagdeo, CEO of Queens Atlantic Investment Incorporated Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop among others.
The gestation period for the programme was described by Jagdeo as painful and replete with ‘ups and downs’ but he expressed satisfaction at the hurdle crossed. This, he said, also spells renewed optimism for the future.
The Marriot Brand Hotel in Guyana has been a bone of contention ever since its announcement and over the years, information regarding the progress being made on the project proved to be elusive with the stakeholders changing over time.
Winston Brassington who is the Head of the National Industrial Commercial and Investments Limited (NICIL), the Government’s Privatization Unit and a host of other government agencies was one of the principal negotiators behind the project and today is listed as one of the principals for Atlantic Hotel Incorporated (AHI).
AHI is a special purpose company that has been established to own the hotel. Brassington used the opportunity at yesterday’s sod turning ceremony to provide a background to the project.
Brassington recalled that in 2009 Adam’s Development Urbahn Associates (ADUA) a private developer withdrew from the project as a result of the Global Financial Crisis and the loss of financing.
ADUA was at the time awaiting a construction permit for the project as the Environmental Impact Assessment Report was being scrutinized.
In August 2008 ADUA, through its Environmental Consultants, presented the draft EIA to the EPA for review, approval and issuance of a permit.
Additionally in May of that year, ADUA, at its own cost, completed initial clearing and demolition of buildings, including the former Luckhoo Pool.
Brassington told those gathered that the sod turning ceremony that when ADUA withdrew from the project the government was insistent on its completion and continued to pursue its development following a public/private partnership route.
According to Brassington in June 2009 advertisements were placed in the media inviting proposals to participate and this resulted in ADUA presenting a plan that included designing the infrastructure and securing the Marriott Brand
“This proposal was accepted in late 2009,” Brassington said.
He explained that in order to execute the partnership AHI the special purpose company was formed and in December a letter of intent was executed between AHI and Marriot.
This letter of intent was aimed at securing Marriott to be the operators and managers of the Hotel.
The following year in June according to Brassington, Marriott issued a public statement announcing the opening of a 160- room Marriott Hotel in Guyana by 2013.
Brassington says that in that same month the development of the design advanced through the Marriott review processes while simultaneously a public advertisement was issued inviting firms to be pre-qualified for the construction of the project.
He said that 23 entities responded positively and of those that expressed an interest seven were prequalified to bid for the project but only two submitted tenders in May of this year.
This brought into play Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) Trinidad Ltd which was the lowest evaluated tendered but Brassington said that their bid still exceeded the government’s budget.
He explained that both of the entities that submitted tenders said that with an alternate design savings could be achieved without compromising the functional requirements.
Both tenderers were subsequently allowed to submit revised costing based on the alternate designs, according to Brassington who yesterday said that SCG again submitted the lowest bid.
As a result in the change in designs the contract with SCG was reviewed to be a design and build contract.
On November 16 following approval by Marriott of the revised designs, a ‘design and build’ contract was executed with SCG and AHI to the value of $50.9M.
According to Brassington the cost encompasses the delivery of a 197-room facility built on a turnkey basis.
The hotel is slated to also accommodate a large ballroom, conference, casino, restaurant and nightclub facility among amenities, “of a full service Marriott.”
Brassington on speaking about the financing of the project said that funding will be in the form of debt and equity with government providing a minority share of the funding.
He told the officials that the majority of the private debt financing will come from Republic Bank which will be providing some US$27M.
The finalization of the financing arrangement is expected before the start of construction which will be very shortly,” according to Brassington.
On hand for the ceremony was SCG Trinidad Ltd-CEO Michael Zhang who expressed his company’s appreciation to the Government and its Client (AHI) to design and build the facility.
He said that the company which is Chinese state owned is ranked among the top 50 in the world and they will over the next two years build a world class hotel for Guyana.
Zhang committed to what he called sharing a great opportunity with local contractors, suppliers and human resources in the local construction industry.
Houghton and Jagdeo also shared their sentiments for the project and its positive impact for Guyana as a country in future.
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