After disposing of the Almond Village Beach Village in St. Peter and Casaurina Hotel property at Dover, Christ Church, the Neal & Massy Group is pressing ahead with plans to pump some $70 million into the Barbadian economy over the next several years.
Its Chief Executive Officer, Gervase Warner is also expressing confidence in the local economy, despite cries of doom and gloom in some quarters.
Speaking this morning at the official opening of the first Neal & Massy combo-store in Barbados and the Caribbean at Super Centre, Warrens, Warner said he did not see the distress among Barbadians when he visited here, as is read and reported when he travels outside of the island.
So confident is the CEO of the Trinidad based conglomerate in the Barbados economy, that he is pledging to invest $70 million in real estate properties and additional superstores over the next several years.
He said the opening of the super combo-store, which brought together Dacosta Mannings Retail and Super Centre, was just the first of many in Barbados and the rest of the region.
“I think much is made about Trinidadian companies coming into Barbados and sort of taking over, but today I want to celebrate the opportunity for a model . . . a business model, a business example from Barbados being able to be brought to fruition, so we can take it to other places in the Caribbean,” he asserted.
“We are very happy because, when you go around international circles, you see what’s happening in the Barbadian economy. I think there are more pessimists than they are optimists about what’s happening here in Barbados. I always come to Barbados every week . . . every two weeks; I am always amazed at the people I meet. I don’t have any sense of distress in Barbados when I meet people. I believe Barbadians are phenomenal about the way they carry themselves, which is extremely encouraging to me.
“But then,” he continued,” I go back on the outside, I meet people and I read reports, and they say, ‘the Barbados dollar, I don’t know how longer it is going hold out . . . . The Barbados dollar is going to come under pressure. Where is the growth going to come from in the Barbados economy?’.”
The head of the Neal & Massy business conglomerate told those attending the opening ceremony, which included Minister of Commerce and Trade Donville Inniss, that his company did not accept these negatives and intended to stay put in Barbados and grow.
“I am happy to say that Neal & Massy is a believer in Barbados. We are investing in Barbados. This combination of what you are seeing here [combo store], and then behind you, you see a lot of construction [former BS &T Corporate Offices] taking place, is part of what we are doing.
“We,” the CEO revealed, “are putting new capital to work in Barbados, because we believe in the future of Barbados and we believe that all of us corporations in Barbados have a moral obligation and responsibility to do our part in creating growth in this economy, and that comes through investment.”
Warner said investments like this created jobs during the construction phase, a better shopping environment, more convenience for customers and enhanced what this country had to offer to locals and visitors.
“This is not the only investment that we are going to make. There are going to be some upgrades at Sunset Crest . . . a new store planned for Kendal Hill and other investments in the property next door, for a grand total of some $70 million . . . .”He disclosed, too, that the purchase of Almond Beach Village and the former Casaurina Hotel will be finalised by early next month. Warner told reporters he was happy that the internationally acclaimed Sandals Hotel Group had taken over the Couples Hotel at midnight last night which was on lease from Almond Corporation.
He admitted that sale of Almond Beach Village in St. Peter and Almond Casaurina was a difficult journey, but his company was glad it waited for the right time and to reach this point.
“We signed a purchase agreement with Sandals which should be closed in the next two to four week. Couples put quite a bit of money in the property,” he added.
However, Gervase lamented that Couples could not raise the money to complete the transaction.
“Fortunately, Sandals was there… committed to buy Casaurina,” stated the CEO. Regarding settlement for the Casaurina shareholders, he disclosed that it would take the form of shareholder loans. But he noted that the Almond Resort Inc, being part of the sale agreement, is a facility from the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc.
“So we will have to wait until that facility is paid before we are actually able to settle everything with Almond Beach Resort shareholders.”
“It is unfortunate,” admitted Gervase, “but it is the best thing we could get at that particular time. If we all be patient, eventually, if there is some little something left for us, we will all be happy together,” the Neal & Massy boss asserted.
The chief executive officer also announced that his company had submitted a proposal to Government for an alternative energy project, but had not yet had a response.