Tata reaffirms commitment to stalled Maldives housing projects

Indian-based corporate giant Tata has said it has no intention of offloading its stake in a Maldivian joint venture overseeing several housing projects in Male’, despite local media speculation that land set aside for the company had  been sold off.

Tata this week confirmed to Minivan News that it remained invested in Apex Realty PVT Ltd, a Maldives joint venture established under the previous government between itself and developers SG18.

Tata Housing Development Spokesperson Vikram Kharvi added that the company was not considering selling its stake in the project, despite construction work having stalled on several commercial residential projects it was developing through the joint venture.

Kharvi confirmed that negotiations were ongoing with the government at present to resolve certain issues concerning the stalled developments on land provided to the company under its joint venture agreement.

He declined to clarify the exact nature of issues that had stalled the projects at time of press, forwarding specific questions on the matter to Sandeep Ahuja, Tata Housing Development’s Senior Vice President .

Minivan News was awaiting response from Ahuja at time of press.

Deputy Minister of Housing Abdulla Mutthalib confirmed to local media this week that the projects being overseen by Apex Realty had stalled due to what he said were a shortage of funds and construction materials.

Mutthalib expressed hope that the stalled projects could still be completed by year end.

“There are some constraints as they are also using subcontractors. The earlier deadlines given by the government have passed. Shortage of funds and construction material have brought both the projects to a complete standstill,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru.

Local media also noted speculation that plots of land originally promised to Tata for its residential projects had since been purchased by local developers.

Contacted by Minivan News, Mutthalib declined to comment, adding that only Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz was able to provide information to the press.

Dr Muiz was not responding to calls at time of press.

“Political interference”

In November last year, Tata was among a number of Indian companies reported to have expressed concerns over  political interference threatening their investments.

Officials involved in the Apex Realty housing development project told Indian media in November 2012 that the government was attempting to take over a site in Male’ given to the company, with the intention of building a new Supreme Court.

The current Supreme Court building was formerly the palace of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, but became the court under his successor Mohamed Nasheed, who opted for the less ostentatious official residence of Muleaage.

A source involved in the Tata deal confirmed to Minivan News that the government had offered land on the island of Hulhumale’ to Tata as an alternative to the agreed site in Male’. However, the same source said the developers felt the change would affect the financing of the project.

The claims were made just weeks before the present government declared a concession agreement signed with infrastructure group GMR to manage and develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) “void” – terminating outright the country’s single largest foreign investment project. GMR were then given seven days to leave the country.

Tata, one of India’s most powerful corporate entities, announced its entry into the Maldives housing sector in 2011 as part of a multi-million dollar cooperation agreement with the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed to build residential and resort properties.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported at the time that the Maldives government-commissioned programme, valued at an estimated US$190 million, required Tata to develop around 350 residential flats and a number of island villa properties that would be sold both to the state and on the open market.