US-controlled property consultancy CBRE, has been given the job of finding a buyer for the Salgados - Praia Grande development between Galé and Armação de Pêra, Silves. This project had been owned by Finalgarve but currently is being promoted on behalf of MillenniumBCP.
Finalgarve, an indigent property company, was 60% owned by the Galilei Group that in turn was controlled by the bankrupt and deeply corrupt Banco Português de Negócios that cost the taxpayer €1.8 billion after a botched bail-out.
The 2012 plans for 'me too' hotels (3), a golf course and extensive tourist development already has led to a 33,000 signature petition from environmentalists and locals while triggering widespread publicity that revealed the deliberately evasive Environmental Impact Statement paid for by Finalgarve. This company admitted to having no funds and aimed only to obtain the necessary licences before selling the project on to the highest bidder. It has since ceased trading.
The Save Salgados campaign started in earnest, fronted by businessman and tourism specialist Frank McClintock and was allied to horrified local environmental organisations. A court injunction was obtained, based on the fortunate discovery of a rare orchid on the land that until now had held the developers at bay.
It appears that MillenniumBPC now owns the development and has appointed CBRE to market this €200 million, 'eco' development that will affect 359 hectares of a unique wetland and natural area, the last such one in the central Algarve and prized as an attraction for off-season tourists such as birdwatchers and walkers.
With a hard building area of 122 hectares this is not a small development and will change the prized natural area into a major tourism resort, described by the bank as an ec-resort but unchanged from the original plan layout - 'eco' in this context , means 'sat in the countryside'.
CPRE reports that “The project will have 3, 4 and 5 star hotels and about 350 residential units integrated in tourist villages and is estimated to be a €200 million investment. In addition to the hotel units and tourist villages, Praia Grande Eco-Resort will also include an 18-hole golf course.”
José Araújo, Director of the Real Estate Business Division at Millennium comments, "The Praia Grande Eco-Resort is one of the largest tourist development projects in the Algarve, with a unique location, with more than 2km of beach front. We believe that the potential of the project as well as the capabilities and resources of CBRE and neoturis will make this project a success." (The agency CPRE later made it clear that this 2km beach front would be for public use as well as resort guests but could not confirm whether a concession area would be established.)
For Francisco Sottomayor, Director of Promotion at CBRE, the new resort "is distinguished by its privileged surroundings, being located next to Lagoa dos Salgados and next to the beach, in a premium area of this region of Portugal. CBRE has acted as a consultant in several transaction processes for tourism projects, especially the sale of the Lusort Group, holder of Vilamoura, the largest real estate transaction of the decade in this sector. "
Eduardo Abreu, partner of Neoturis which also is involved in the deal, also points out that the "Praia Grande Eco-Resort represents a unique opportunity for tourism-real estate promotion, due to its quality, location and highly conserved natural surroundings. In addition to real estate developers we believe in the interest of various hotel groups in the project. It is with great satisfaction that we have accepted this joint challenge and supported the creation of a unique project in Portugal. "
It now is up to the environmental lobby to respond. This countryside area has been the focus of attention for years: to develop it into another resort with golf courses and hotels will take yet another bite out of what makes the Algarve special. Developers are not in the business of understanding the balance between development and nature but still push their ‘eco-credentials’ at every opportunity.
There remain questions over the beach access with the promotional video showing a section designated for the hotel guests and property owners. Whether this is the case and, if so, whether it is legal, remains to be explained as does much, following this morning’s announcement which, being released on a public holiday, means few are around to answer press questions.
Praia Grande's promoter, MillenniumBPC, is controlled by China’s Fosun which now owns 30% of the stock. Another shareholder is Angola’s corrupt oil company, Sonangol, which has been authorised by the European Central Bank to raise its stake in MillenniumBCP from 14.9% to about 30%.
In December 2011, Human Rights Watch said that the Government of Angola should explain the whereabouts of US$32 billion missing from government funds linked to Sonangol.
Sonangol is controlled by the dos Santos regime and run by the president’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos, whom the Portuguese government is convinced walks on water and can do no wrong, despite allegations of industrial scale money laundering of Angola’s national income from Sonangol’s oil revenues.
Whether the US consultancy, CBRE, will attract any buyers will depend on the lifting of the court injunction, the final licences being granted and whether potential buyers, having searched for ‘salgados praia grande development’ on Google, are happy that the ruination of this unique natural area will be an easy ride in the face of continuing opposition from the Algarve's ecological and nature associations and the 33,718 signatories to the Save Salgados campaign.
Promotional video for the proposed development:
For previous articles about this development, see: http://algarvedailynews.com/cases/salgados