(Recasts with approval of interim financing from bankruptcy court hearing)
By Tom Hals and Tim McLaughlin
WILMINGTON, Delaware, July 1 (Reuters) - The bankrupt $3.5 billion Baha Mar mega resort in the Bahamas secured up to $30 billion in interim financing on Wednesday, but it was unclear when construction on the stalled project would resume.
The resort, bankrolled and built by the Chinese and described on its website as ”the world’s glamourous, new playground, is eight to 12 weeks from completion once construction resumes, a lawyer for the resort told a bankruptcy judge.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey approved up to $30 million in interim financing for Baha Mar, one of the biggest commercial construction projects in the Western Hemisphere. Baha Mar’s developer, Sarkis Izmirlian, the son of Armenian billionaire Dikran Izmirlian, has agreed to arrange the funding.
Thomas Dunlap, a top executive for Baha Mar, declined to comment after the hearing on any timeline for resuming construction..
The interim financing is for the next 30 days to pay salaries, benefits and key suppliers, for example. It does not come with any project milestones.
“I haven’t seen that in a long time,” Carey said at the hearing.
Meanwhile, major contractors on the project are no longer on site at the Baha Mar. ThyssenKrupp AG, which is supplying 66 elevators and eight escalators, has disabled all of the equipment for safety reasons and has left the site, company spokeswoman Kellie Harris said.
A series of construction delays, funding squabbles, lagging inspections and faulty work at the Baha Mar resort in Nassau have led to contention and finger-pointing in recent months among the local developer, a Chinese state-backed contractor and China’s export finance bank. The turmoil and internal squabbles over Baha Mar have roiled the Caribbean nation’s fragile economy, while aggravating would-be tourists and idling thousands of workers amid sky-high Bahamian unemployment and slack revenue growth.
Once completed, Baha Mar is to add 5,000 jobs to the economy of the Bahamas, or 12 percent of the small country’s gross domestic product.
Baha Mar filed for bankruptcy protection in a Delaware court on Monday. The resort will feature more than 2,000 hotel rooms and a Las Vegas-style casino.
At Wednesday’s court hearing, lawyer Mark Shinderman, a partner at Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, said the project is 97 percent complete and the rest could be finished in 12 weeks once construction resumes.
The Export-Import Bank of China financed most of the project with a $2.45 billion loan. But Sarkis Izmirlian, whose group has invested $850 million in the resort, blamed China State Construction’s China Construction America (CCA) wholly-owned subsidiary for “missed construction deadlines” in a statement released on Monday. (Reporting by Tim McLaughlin and Tom Hals; Editing by Leslie Adler)