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Corinthia €15m bond issue to kickstart Libyan ventures

Corinthia Group chairman Alfred Pisani: "Libya has awarded over 70 oil exploration contracts. There will be a huge influx of overseas personnel." (Photo: Chris Sant Fournier)

Corinthia Group chairman Alfred Pisani: "Libya has awarded over 70 oil exploration contracts. There will be a huge influx of overseas personnel." (Photo: Chris Sant Fournier)

There is an infectious air of optimism in Libya as the country braces itself for growth now that it has firmly shaken off pariah status and is open to international investment.

A vast array of opportunities are there for the taking and one of Malta's principal multi-national companies, the Maltese-Libyan Corinthia Group of Companies, is among the leading pack of investors, pouring not only funds but generating confidence and employment in the North African country.

Corinthia Group has been doing business in Libya for 30 years, ample time for it to gain the necessary experience to be able to read the economic forecast.

"As Europe and the US struggle, Libya is about to witness tremendous development," Corinthia Group chairman Alfred Pisani says. "Over the past three years alone, Libya has awarded over 70 oil exploration contracts. There will be a huge influx of overseas personnel."

Foresight has always been Corinthia's forte. In 1998, when the site for the five-star Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel in Tripoli (the only five-star in the Libyan capital) was acquired, the group was already seeking to identify land for other projects that would offer superior accommodation and facilities to an eventual flood of exigent overseas personnel engaged on long-term contracts who would seek relocation with their families.

"In Libya, foreign workers' families have traditionally lived in compounds. Corinthia saw an opportunity: demand for high standard accommodation was increasing," Mr Pisani points out.

Mediterranean Investments Holdings plc (MIH), a joint venture between Corinthia Group and the Kuwaiti-listed National Real Estate Company, set up as a private company in 2005, was converted to a public company two years later. Its objective was to acquire, develop and operate real estate projects in North Africa. MIH went to the market in 2007, offering €15 million worth of bonds at 7.5 per cent annual interest. The offer was oversubscribed and closed on the first day. The bonds are listed on the Alternative Companies List.

The funds were injected into Palm City Residences, a self-contained, newly built village in Janzur, 15 km outside Tripoli, aimed at a spectrum of discerning multi-national tenants, including diplomats, and personnel of international blue chip companies and contractors. Set on a kilometre of coastline, the mixture of 413 residences, ranging from studio flats to villas, will be available on five- to seven-year lease from next March. Leasing will ensure that there is cost-efficient turnover of tenants at the village which will be entirely managed by MIH.

Designed by a Maltese architect, the residences will be fully furnished to exceptional standards offering all that a modern lifestyle demands. At the centre of the complex lies a piazza that will be the life and soul of the community lined with boutiques, catering outlets, and other facilities, besides a beach club and health club.

"People coming to Libya are expecting higher standards now," Mr Pisani says, adding that standards across the board continue to improve.

"The tenants will be the same clientele of professionals enjoyed by the Bab Africa, so Corinthia is fully aware of their expectations. The interest in Palm City has been tremendous and tenants will be assured true value."

Meanwhile, MIH continued to source opportunities for real estate projects while Palm City Residences was taking shape.

Of the three new opportunities MIH has identified, one is a veritable coup. A 13,000-m2 site on what is to become Tripoli's main boulevard, is to be developed into the 30-storey Tripoli Commercial and Residential Towers. The address, close to the Bab Africa, will be synonymous with high-end office, retail, and residential property for renowned brands and corporations.

Misurata Village, on the other hand, will be a similar concept to Palm City Residences but with added facilities. Besides 420 high standard homes, the village will incorporate a 200-room four-star hotel, a commercial centre, a marina and a school. The 170,000-m2 site is two kilometres away from the Misurata free trade zone, one of the newest commercial hubs on the North African coast.

Close to Mitega airport used primarily for private jets lies the third potential venture: an under-developed two-kilometre stretch of coast to be developed as residential units, a commercial centre, a retail park, hotel, warehousing facilities and other amenities. MIH will be the lead developer of Fawar, which will occupy a total of 550,000 m2, and will invite other investors to join the project.

On July 28, MIH will issue a €15 million seven-year bond to finance the initial stages of the new ventures. It will bear an interest rate of 7.5 per cent per annum, payable from August 4, 2009. In case of over-subscription, the amount of bonds issued could be increased to €20 million. For advice and a prospectus contact banks or authorised financial intermediaries.

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