White Rocks consortium told €25 million offer ‘too low’

Consortium offers €25 million for White Rocks land but plans to make €400 million from project

The White Rocks consortium is expecting a return of €400 million on the project
The White Rocks consortium is expecting a return of €400 million on the project

The White Rocks consortium selected as the preferred bidder to develop a luxury villa complex over 450 tumuli of land, has been told their €25 million offer is far below government expectations.

A senior government representative contradicted reports that a deal had been concluded, and that negotiations were being held up over disagreements on the offer being presented by the business group that wants the land.

“Newspaper reports that a deal has been sealed are well off the mark. This is Malta’s prime site with unadulterated sea views and vast open spaces. There is no way the project and land is worth just €25 million,” the source told MaltaToday.

Presentations seen by MaltaToday show that in their bid to realise a sustainable and profitable project, the consortium is expecting a return of €400 million on the project.

The proposed plan includes 66 terrace villas priced at an average of €2.25 million – the total revenue here would be around €149 million; 90 foreshore leisure coastal apartments selling for an average price of €717,000 and bringing in revenue of €65 million, 18 ‘citadel villas’ fetching a price of €4.8 million each with a total revenue of €86 million and 225 ‘citadel apartments’ with an average cost of €450,000 with revenue of €101 million.

The consortium was planning to rake in a minimum €220 million in profits.

The boutique hotel and other ancillary services are not included in the workings.

The White Rocks area covers 45 hectares (449,885 square metres) of land but only 38%, or 135,600 square metres of the project area can be developed.

The whole project was planned to be financed, designed, constructed, and operated by the consortium spearheaded by Michael Bianchi, a successful entrepreneur and middleman who fronted major business ventures such as the MIA, Vodafone, Maltco and others. Bianchi is well known for bringing together foreign clients and Maltese entrepreneurs.

The consortium includes British property moguls Ian and Richard Livingstone, the Alpine Group headed by MHRA president Tony Zahra, Bonnici Brothers owned by Emanuel Bonnici, John Bonnici and Mario Bonnici; Mizzi Holdings Ltd, with Maurice Mizzi, Brian Mizzi and Kenneth Mizzi as directors; Sea Estate Ltd with Joseph Eucharist Vella of Karkanja Ltd; Elma Ltd with Dennis Baldacchino of Tal-Maghtab Construction Ltd, and Charles Ellul of Elbros Construction Ltd.

In April 2017, MaltaToday reported that talks had hit a snag, but economy minister Chris Cardona had denied the reports. “The negotiations with the preferred bidder, White Rocks Development Company, are still ongoing and progressing,” he had said. “I reaffirm the government’s commitment to maximise the economic, environmental and touristic potential of this long-abandoned and dilapidated site.”

Already four years ago, Cardona had said his political career was tied to whether the development of the former White Rocks complex in Pembroke proves to be a success or not. “Development projects such as White Rocks had been shelved under previous Nationalist administrations, but some really strong investors have now shown interest in investing in it and I am tying my political career with the success of its investment,” Cardona had said on TVM’s Reporter in November 2014.

And again in September 2016, MaltaToday had reported that White Rocks Development Company was expected to pay the government €22 million for the sale of the land.