The government-owned Prospect Reef Resort suffered extensive damage due to 2017’s hurricanes. (Photo: CONOR KING DEVITT)

Despite 2017’s turbulent hurricane season, the ICA (BVI) Group Corporation is still interested in redeveloping the government-owned Prospect Reef Resort, according to Premier Dr. Orlando Smith.

The government-owned Prospect Reef Resort suffered extensive damage due to the recent hurricanes. Photo: CONOR KING DEVITT
The resort suffered significant damage during the passage of Hurricane Irma.

“It’s still on the table, yes,” Dr. Smith (R-at large) said in response to a question at a press conference last Thursday. “They haven’t briefed me on their timeline. Now my office, the Ministry [of Finance], is having discussions with them to finalise the agreement.”

What Dr. Smith meant by that, however, remains uncertain: Government officials signed an agreement with the company’s managing director, Ali Nawaz Shaikh, last July, and Arliene Penn, government’s communications director, could not be reached for comment regarding whether the Finance Ministry was working on a new contract.

Mr. Shaikh also could not be reached for comment regarding his company’s interest in — or potential timeline for — redeveloping the resort.

Background

In July, Mr. Shaikh, who has said he is a native of the United Arab Emirates, signed the agreement to redevelop the resort, which had long needed a facelift even before the hurricanes caused significant damage, as evidenced by comments from online reviewers in recent years that have consistently described the hotel as “dirty” and “in need of renovations.”

In exchange for a renewable term lease for the property, ICA agreed to finance, develop and operate Prospect Reef.

Though Government Information Services reported at the time that ICA would invest $90 million in the project, Mr. Shaikh noted shortly after the signing that the amount could rise to $110 million, depending on details in the yet-to-be completed master plan.

The project was slated to likely include the construction of around 190-200 rooms across two hotels, as well as the development of condos, town houses, villas, a marina, a saltwater pool, an infinity pool, a conference centre and parking lots, according to Mr. Shaikh.

Neither he nor government officials publicised the contract, however.

In July, Mr. Shaikh said he planned to submit a master plan for the project to the Planning Authority within 90 to 140 days. He also hoped to break ground within six months of that time and finish the project within 18 months to two years from commencement.

The VI-registered ICA (BVI) Group is a subsidiary of Mr. Shaikh’s international ICA Group, which he said is headquartered in Dubai and has its “operating company” in Colorado.

Airport financing question

Previously, Mr. Shaikh’s international ICA Group also hoped to finance the proposed expansion of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.

In November 2015, representatives from the ICA Group, as well as IDL Projects Inc. and the Sir Robert McAlpine Group, met with government officials and private consultants to discuss the possibility of the three firms partnering to finance, expand and operate the airport.

They proposed a “concession model,” a public-private partnership whereby a private firm would finance, build and operate the airport for a number of years before turning it back over to government. ICA’s proposed role would have been to finance the project and secure an operator for the airport.

A few months after the meeting, Deputy Premier Dr. Kedrick Pickering announced that government was not moving forward with the concession model, instead choosing to finance and maintain control of the property directly while contracting a firm to develop it.

However, the airport project’s business case — a viability analysis drafted by the international firm PricewaterhouseCoopers — warned that ICA might not have been able to fund the airport project.

“PwC and [Baker & McKenzie] met with this consortium … and conducted a background investigation on ICA, and found no evidence of ICA’s ability (past or present) to bring financing and an operator to ultimately deliver the project,” states the business case, which was submitted to government in May 2016. “Their financing sources were obscure at best.”

Mr. Shaikh, however, disagreed with that analysis at the time.

“That makes me upset. We have a signed letter from an operator,” he told the Beacon in September 2016, adding that he had obtained financing from Deutsche Bank and a flying agreement with Jet Blue for the expansion project.

 

This story originally appeared in the Feb. 15, 2018 edition.

 

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