As Cuba opens, developers tee up to build golf courses
HAVANA | BY MARC FRANK
A British real estate developer plans to break ground early next year on
Communist-run Cuba’s first luxury golf resort, a $500 million project
that would be the largest private foreign investment on the island since
the fall of the Soviet Union.
With relations improving between the United States and Cuba, tourism and
real estate are seen by many businesses as the most interesting
investments, and the race is on to get in.
Ian Livingstone, co-executive chairman of London & Regional, said in a
telephone interview from London that construction would begin in the
first quarter of 2016 in conjunction with an international building firm
yet to be named.
Cuba currently has just one 18-hole golf course, but the Caribbean
island’s Communist government says it wants to eventually have at least
12 golf resorts.
“People are desperate to buy in Cuba but they need some reassurance at
this stage and that means a reputable company such as ours,” Livingston
said. “It is important we get the right quality because Cuba wants to
start attracting more high-end tourists.”
Aside from an 18-hole course, plans include a marina, 100-room luxury
hotel and more than 1,000 privately owned beach front condominiums and
The state enterprise Palmares SA has a 51 percent stake in the project,
as it does with other planned golf resorts. In exchange for its majority
stake, Palmares grants land with no property claims attached and allows
a renewable 99-year lease on condos and villas.
Besides the London & Regional project, Palmares signed final papers last
month with the Beijing Enterprise Group for a similar project, Jose
Alonso, the tourism ministry’s business director, told official media
He said a third project would be signed later this year, without naming
the developer, and that two additional developments were being
negotiated with unnamed Spanish firms, also with between 1,000 and 2,000
condominiums and villas for sale.
“Investors and important hotel operators are arriving who never came
before,” Alonso said, referring to the thaw in U.S. relations.
The United States and Cuba on Wednesday agreed to reopen embassies and
restore diplomatic relations as of July 20, and U.S. Secretary of State
John Kerry said he would come to Havana for a flag-raising ceremony.
Cuba received 3 million tourists last year and reported a 15 percent
increase in arrivals over the first four months of 2015. More Americans
are coming after President Obama loosened, but did not lift, travel
restrictions in January.
While Cuba has talked about such resorts for years, financing has proved
perhaps the biggest obstacle. But Livingston said, “We are not investing
other people’s money, it is our own private money.”
London & Regional, owned by Livingston and his brother, has a portfolio
valued at well over $10 billion and assets valued at some $1.5 billion,
Despite the restoration of diplomatic relations, the U.S. embargo
prohibits Americans from visiting Cuba as tourists or purchasing homes.
U.S. President Barack Obama could restore diplomatic ties on his own and
take further executive action to weaken the embargo, but only Congress
can lift the embargo completely.
In the meantime, U.S. developers and hotel companies are also prohibited
from operating in Cuba.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Christian Plumb)
Source: As Cuba opens, developers tee up to build golf courses | Reuters