- Balopi, Oasis Motel owner’s hotel failed to repay FNBB P46million loan
- Khamas, Jamali, Chobe Holdings, Cresta Marakenelo tussle for seizure – Liquidator
The multi-million Pula Bridgetown hotel in Kasane valued at P70 million which is owned by Botswana Democratic Party heavyweight Patrick Balopi and property mogul Ahmad Mansur Sidiqui is facing liquidation and the country’s biggest hospitality industry players are scrambling to acquire the property.
Investigations by The Botswana Gazette reveal that the battle for the luxury hotel is likely to intensify as investors are already accusing each other of trying to win the hotel through underhand dealings. Property mogul Sayed Jamali was the first to rebuff these allegations following his failed bid to directly engage with First National Bank the hotel’s creditor.
The liquidator John Little, who is also Managing Director of Corporate Services, following an undercover operation by The Botswana Gazette reporters revealed that he was informed by FNB that Jamali tried to side step him and attempted to negotiate directly with the bank. “I am informed that Jamali went to the bank and made several inquiries in an effort to sidestep us, the liquidators. But he is wasting his time because anybody who expresses interest must pass through me,” he revealed to the reporters. “It is not only Jamali who seems to be interested but Wilderness Safaris which the Khamas have a stake in, has also expressed interest. Others include Chobe Holdings and Cresta Marakanelo.”
The interested parties have been seeking to outmanoeuvre each other over the liquidation and Jamali according to reports appears to be the local favourite. The liquidator disclosed that while he had initially wanted the hotel’s ownership to remain in Botswana he has since decided to broaden the scope and open it for international bids. “Well-known Zimbabwean giants have also expressed interest and the highest bidder will take it,” he said.
The Hotel needed a face-lift of approximately P20 million which the owners Balopi and Sidiqui failed to raise as the hotel has not generated a profit since its launch. However, the liquidator says the enterprise has huge potential, particularly after the completion of the long-awaited Kazungula bridge. “That place can turn into everything you want it to be,” revealed the liquidator.
The owners of Bridgetown Hotel, former speaker of parliament and former cabinet minister, Balopi and Sidiqui failed to maintain an over P46-million loan due to the hotel failing to remain afloat since its inception nine years ago. The failure to service the loan resulted in FNBB approaching the High Court to recover its debt from Bridgetown. Bridgetown’s owners told the court that they were unable to service that loan as the hotel resort was unable to generate sufficient income, leading to the parties agreeing on liquidation as a means to settle the bank’s credit.
It was reported late last year that Bridgetown Hotel and banker First National Bank Botswana(FNBB) had reached a settlement by way of an out of court compromise.
The Botswana Gazette understands that the liquidating company, Corporate Services has for the last nine months made efforts to secure a local buyer. The Corporate Services director says they have given it up to end of October before they resort to Plan B, which would see them do away with sealed bids and accepting whoever brings the highest bid. “We want to wait until the end of October and in that process run adverts, then after we will move to Plan B of accepting whoever puts in a big offer.”
WHY THE PROJECT FAILED?
Sources with knowledge on the matter have revealed that the hotel was bound to fail from the start as they claim the local tourism sector is controlled by a small cross section of the population, but Balopi remained unrealistically optimistic that he could break the mold.
Industry insiders allude to struggles with the former administration who used state machinery to reject their clients’ visa applications, which resulted in low footfalls for the hotel.
Reached for comment, Jamali denied any knowledge on the matter further claiming that he does not even know the hotel in question.
“I am not interested and I do not know anything about the hotel. I also do not know where the hotel is or how it looks like,” briefly said Jamali.