* “Small, lean” airline to follow; €37 mln from MTN sale and “other” funds to become seed money *
Nicos Shacolas, head of the biggest retail group in Cyprus, put a smile on many desperate peoples’ faces over the weekend when he landed a most welcome bombshell in a near-bankrupt economy, declaring that he is investing in Limni Bay Resort, the biggest leisure project ever conceived on the island.
The resort will cost 1.5 bln euros to complete and will include two 18-hole signature golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, a luxury hotel and wellness centre, a heliport, cultural and sports facilities, several hundred villas and holiday apartments.
In order to ensure the plan becomes reality, Shacolas also announced that together with his partners in Paphos, they would launch a “small, flexible and viable” airline that would operate all year round and feed traffic to the region, but mainly to the Limni resort, a few kilometers east of Polis Chrysochous.
In an effort to allay the fears of local communities, as well as concerned environmentalists, the chairman of the NK Shacolas Group said that a new study will be submitted to the authorities within a few weeks that will safeguard the natural habitat and also include the clean-up cost of the decades-old abandoned mines that have caused extensive damage to the surrounding area and population.
The operator of the resort, Cyprus Limni Resorts, bought the 3,300 hectare property 30 years ago and has already spent about 40 mln euros to bring the 800 metre-wide crater of the mine to a habitable standard.
Community leaders also called on the government to improve the road network in the area, where poor design and maintenance have cost the lives of many motorists in recent years.
With construction work expected to get underway soon after the final permits are secured “within the next few weeks,” Limni Bay Resort will employ several hundred people during the construction phase, as well as creating more than 1,000 jobs after it is completed, contributing significantly to the nearby local economy as well.
The resort, designed by Foster & Partners and ESDA master planners, includes a 150-metre long jetty that is being reinforced to withstand extreme weather conditions, similar to a storm that hit the area recently, and enjoys a 750-metre beachfront, while the long and narrow property stretches some 5kms inland.
Nicos Shacolas also referred to the sale of a 50% stake in MTN Cyprus, that will contribute some 36.5 mln euros to the Group’s flagship Cyprus Trading Corporation.
“Our investment completed its cycle. This recent liquidation will help strengthen our capital base in order to invest in projects such as this,” he said at the foundation laying ceremony attended by President Christofias and several hundred dignitaries and associates.
“The sale of another investment in a few weeks’ time will also help the Limni project,” Shacolas said, without elaborating any further.
Praised as a shrewd and progressive businessman, whose companies have enjoyed a steady dividend-paying policy in recent years, Shacolas also chose the ceremony to suggest that he would be passing on the baton to his son, Marios, whom he described as “the driving force” behind the Limni Resort from the project’s inception.
He also announced that all the partners involved in the project would soon launch a “small, flexible and viable” airline, based in Paphos, that would operate in winter as well as in summer, in order to carry the thousands of holidaymakers that the resort is expected to attract.
Furthermore, once the whole resort starts to take shape, the partners will also embark on setting up a network of overseas travel offices that would primarily promote tourism to the greater Paphos region, and in particular to the Limni Bay Resort (www.limnibay.com) .
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