Updated 12.10pm with Midi company announcement
Malta’s largest ever development project, the transformation of Manoel Island into a top-end Mediterranean village, will be changing hands in the coming weeks as Tumas Group will be buying the majority of shares in the project from Midi plc, the Times of Malta is informed.
Sources close to the project told Times of Malta that a preliminary deal has already been struck between Midi and the Tumas Group on the understanding that the latter will pay about a €100 million for the transfer of shares.
The sources said that the deal, which has still to be officially announced, will see Tumas Group take the reins of the project with the acquisition of at least a 60% shareholding of a new company to be set up with Midi as a joint venture.
The sources said that at this stage, it was not being excluded that Tumas Group will take an even higher stake in the joint venture.
Both the Tumas Group and Midi Plc declined to give comments on the possible agreement, saying that since Midi was listed on the stock exchange any such development will have to be first made through an official public announcement.
Talks ongoing - Midi
In a company announcement issued at noon on Tuesday, Midi Plc acknowledged that talks with Tumas Group were under way but told shareholders that no preliminary deal had been struck.
"Discussions are ongoing which may or may not result in a transaction," the company said, adding that any further updates would be communicated in due course.
The Manoel Island project, which formed part of a deal signed with the government in 2000 and which included the development of both Tigné Point and Manoel Island, has been in the pipeline for almost the past two decades.
While concentrating on the development of Tigné Point, which has seen the tip of the Sliema peninsula transformed into hundreds of high-end, luxury apartments, a shopping mall and office blocks, the Manoel Island side of the project has never seen the light of day.
Government green light required
Although the Midi developers have always insisted that Manoel Island would only commence once the Tigné side was completed, it is a known secret among Maltese developers that Midi were seeking international partners to finance the massive project, which is expected to cost some €500 million in investment.
The sources said that once the deal with Tumas Group is finalised, it is expected that the project will be given a new lease of life, with actual construction earmarked to start next year.
PA master plan
Times of Malta is informed that the Planning Authority is currently at the stage of green lighting a new master plan for the whole island on which the necessary planning permits will be submitted.
Apart from high-end serviced low-rise apartments, a five-star hotel at a restored Lazzaretto and the development of some 80,000 square metres of public park space, the project also comprises the development of a 350-berth yacht marina and the transformation of the 18th-century Fort Manoel into a centre for culture and the arts.
According to the 2000 agreement signed between the government and Midi, a change in the shareholding of Midi of more than 40% will first need the green light of the government.
Midi’s shareholders are expected to make a significant profit from the transfer of the former public land to the Tumas Group.
Currently, the majority of shares in Midi Plc are held by Alf Mizzi and Sons, Mapfre MSV Life, Gasan Enterprises, Mark Weingard, Finco Trust and Vassallo Builders.
PD leader Anthony Buttigieg said in a reaction that since Midi would be making a considerable profit from the transfer of public land it never developed in line with the original 2000 agreement, the profits should go to the public as the original owners after what Midi spent on the restoration of Fort Manoel is deducted.