Bahamas Resort May Soon Be On The Market

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PROPERTY GROUP Harcourt Developments is said to be considering the sale of a Bahamas resort it bought in 2007 but left undeveloped because of the property market collapse.

Harcourt bought the hurricane-damaged Royal Oasis hotel, casino, golf course and timeshare complex on Grand Bahama for €25 million in November 2007. At the time, it pledged to spend about €250 million redeveloping and reopening it.

However, the property market collapse intervened and the company has yet to redevelop and reopen the resort.

According to recent reports, the Irish group has told the Bahamian government that it has had talks with potential buyers, although it has not received any offers for the property.

Harcourt did not comment yesterday. Its website lists the Royal Oasis as one of its hotel properties and states that it is currently being upgraded.

The Bahamian finance minister, Zhivargo Laing, recently met with Harcourt representatives. The government is keen to see the resort redeveloped and reopened because of its job-creation potential. It is an important tourist attraction in a region whose economy depends heavily on that industry.

In 2007, Harcourt estimated that it would create 1,000 jobs directly in redeveloping the resort and operating it.

Hurricane damage forced its previous owner, timeshare and hotel operator Freeport Driftwood, to close the Royal Oasis in 2004. The Bahamian government subsequently had to pay staff $8 million in salary and social insurance compensation after they lost their jobs.

A number of timeshare investors threatened to sue Freeport Driftwood at the time in an effort to get compensation for their loss.

This did not involve Harcourt, but the issue delayed the sale of the property. The Irish group agreed the purchase in April 2007, but the sale did not actually go through until the following November.

The developer subsequently began talks with casino and hotel management companies to run the resort. The facilities would also feature conference centres, golf, a spa and fitness centres. The Royal Oasis has two championship golf courses.

Harcourt has projects in Ireland, Europe, the US and in centres such as the Bahamas and Antigua. The State's bad bank, Nama, now owns loans to the company from Irish financial institutions.

Developer and builder John Doherty founded Harcourt when he was still working in Britain.

Its directors include former broadcaster Mike Murphy and Andrew Parker Bowles, former husband of Camilla Parker Bowles.

BARRY O'HALLORAN
www.irishtimes.com
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 February 2011 14:37