Business Times

Hyatt hotel soon in Celestial Residencies

Under expropriation laws, Convention Centre to be revived soon
By Bandula Sirimanna

Celestial Residencies, one of the premier iconic properties of the collapsed Ceylinco group and the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre (SLECC), both recently acquired by the government under expropriation laws, will be revived soon under the directions of Competent Authority Attorney-at-Law Kalinga Indratissa, a 5-member Ministerial Sub Committee and a 6-member Officials' Committee. These properties were taken over under the Revival of Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilized Assets Act.

A consortium led by the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC) is taking over the partially-completed Celestial Residencies, opposite the Cinnamon Grand hotel, with an initial investment of Rs. 6.8 billion and will resume construction work on what is said to be Sri Lanka's tallest building with 45 floors. A funding shortage by the former owners had halted construction, Finance Ministry officials said. The SLIC will make the initial investment which will be used to pay off creditors, contractors and those who paid an advance to buy super luxury residential apartments.

Asked about payments due to depositors of the failed Ceylinco Shriram (which had a stake in this property, one official said, “since this property has been acquired by the government legally, this issue does not arise.”The consortium comprising the SLIC, EPF, ETF, Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank which will be registered at the Registrar of Companies and listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange will raise Rs. 9.2 billion to complete the construction work, a top official of the Ministry revealed.

The 450-room super luxury Hyatt Regency will come in the same complex, as earlier planned. Celestial Residencies will also have super luxury residential apartments and super luxury penthouses. The building has been constructed up to level 15. The partly constructed building and the 242 perch land has been deteriorating daily, and hence there was an urgent need to recommence the project to avoid further financial losses and physical damage. Under this set up the Competent Authority has taken measures to revive this project ensuring that the purpose, for which the land was entrusted to Ceylinco Leisure Properties Ltd. by the Urban Development Authority (UDA), would be duly and expeditiously accomplished, the official said.

Meanwhile the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre (SLECC) will be handed back to its former Singapore owners on new terms and conditions on a decision taken by the Competent Authority and the Ministerial Sub Committee. The SLECC at Colombo's D R Wijewardene Mawatha formally owned by Pico, a Singapore-based event management firm with operations in 33 countries, has agreed to build another floor at the building to house a super luxury restaurant, a shopping mall and other recreation facilities and to pay a monthly rental to the UDA. Its Sri Lanka unit, Intertrade Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, has a 25-year build operate transfer (BOT) contract with the Board of Investment of which 17 years has expired. The 0.839 hectares of land was leased from the UDA in 1994.

Other properties will be offered to prospective local or foreign investors through a competitive bidding process with Request for Proposals (RFPs) which will begin shortly. The 9-acre Chalmers Granaries land will be blocked out and offered to investors to carry out the development plan devised by the UDA. The official said that a sum of Rs.1 billion has been allocated to pay compensation to former owners and ex-employees of closed BOI companies whose Competent Authority is Tuly Cooray, he revealed.

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