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Marsa racetrack concession will include office block

Sources say company wants a nine-storey block as part of the deal

Pio Valletta (left) and the former Education Ministry permanent secretary, Joseph Caruana, signing the deal as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius look on.

Pio Valletta (left) and the former Education Ministry permanent secretary, Joseph Caruana, signing the deal as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius look on.

A private company managing the Marsa Racetrack will be allowed to build offices for rent and generate profit from real estate, the Times of Malta is informed.

Sources close to the ongoing negotiations told Times of Malta that although the government had already conceded to give the new racetrack operators the possibility to build offices and a commercial complex, it had still to agree on the “dimension” of the real estate component.

“The company wanting to take over the racetrack wants a large nine-storey office block close to the entrance from the Qormi side,” the sources said.

“Although the government has already conceded that some kind of real estate will be allowed to make the project viable, it is still considering various options as it is wary of the criticism that the granting of more public land for speculation will generate,” the sources added.

The Education Ministry, under whose responsibility the project falls, was asked whether the government had accepted to allow the new owners to build a nine-storey office block as part of the deal.

The negotiation process for the project is still under way, at an advanced stage

A spokeswoman replied: “The negotiation process for the project is still under way, at an advanced stage, and any eventual draft concession agreement and deed is yet to go through the normal government approval process.

“At that stage the ministry will ensure that the approved terms and conditions will fully abide by the memorandum of understanding and request for proposals documents and [be] in line with strict legal compliance for [the] site.”

Efforts to privatise the management of the racetrack facilities started in 2015 when the government’s privatisation unit issued a call for expressions of interest.

The call generated little interest with only one bidder making a final offer.

After a lengthy period of inaction, Prime Minster Joseph Muscat signed a preliminary deal with Marsa Racetrack Ltd on the eve of the last general election, saying that an €18 million investment was on the cards.

However, although the deal was expected to be finalised by September 2017, the memorandum of understanding was now extended until the end of the year as negotiations took longer than expected, the sources said.

The private company negotiating with the government is made up of number of individuals led by Hugh Morshead, a director at the Maltese passport-selling company Henley & Partners. Lawyer Pio Valletta, a minority shareholder in the company, signed the initial agreement with the government on behalf of Marsa Racetrack Ltd.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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