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Consortium interested in taking over Marsa race track presenting trophies to winners

No deal yet but negotiations in advanced stage

Representatives of a private consortium interested in taking over the Marsa horse racing track are presenting trophies to competition winners, the Times of Malta has learnt.

Though the racetrack privatisation deal has yet to be announced as talks continue, Colin Purkins, on behalf of Marsa Race Track Consortium, was seen presenting trophies to race winners.

Horse owners, who have complained they were left in the dark on what was being discussed, said they could not understand why consortium representatives should be distributing trophies when nothing had been concluded yet.

“When we ask members of the Malta Racing Club, they tell us nothing has been decided yet and that the government is still discussing it. We are now having our doubts on the veracity of these statements,” a jockey said.

Asked about the state of the negotiations, which have been ongoing since 2015, a spokeswoman for the Education Ministry, conducting the negotiations, told Times of Malta no deal had been struck yet.

Insisting that the negotiations were “in an advanced stage”, she said “announcements would be made public when such process is concluded”.

The ministry said at the beginning of this year that the talks were in an advanced stage.

During the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the eve of the last general election between the government and the Marsa Racetrack Consortium, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced an investment of €18 million in the racetrack by the private investors, who include building contractors F. Schembri Holdings Ltd, known as Tad-Dubbu, and a number of foreign individuals, including Hugh Morshead, a director of the company that sells Maltese passports, Henley & Partners.

The Prime Minister, who ruled out any real estate element in the deal, said the final agreement with the private investors had to be reached by September 2017.

However, that did not happen and the MOU was extended until the end of this year, because, according to sources, negotiations hit a snag.

Times of Malta is informed the private entrepreneurs want to build a nine-storey office block to generate rental income from the project. The sources said the private investors were eyeing a large piece of land in Qormi currently used by Malta Public Transport.

The consortium is arguing that without real estate, running the racetrack will not be commercially viable.

The tender issued originally for the privatisation of the racetrack did not include the possibility of real estate development.

The offer only attracted one bid.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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