Big guns behind the Evans Building privatisation bids revealed

One of the consortia involves Nobu, of Robert De Niro fame.


Months of resistance from the government to reveal the companies and businessmen behind the bids submitted for the privatisation of the iconic Evans Building in lower Valletta have come to an end with The Shift now able to reveal those involved in the bids.

After turning down requests for information from The Shift and similar requests in Parliament, the government has now been forced to provide the information through the Freedom of Information Act.

While a total of six bids were submitted by the end of the call last April, it results that many of the consortia involved have multiple big investors behind them. The concession will be for 65 years and will see Evans Building converted into a luxury 5-star hotel.

According to the official bids list published by the Department of Contracts, the highest bid was submitted by Katari Hospitality JV for €41 million.

However, another consortium, which was officially listed as having made the lowest offer, Valletta Luxury Projects – owned by the Eden Leisure Group’s De Cesares and Mark Weingard of the Iniala Hotel – went to friendly media claiming their bid was of €78 million and not of €1.2 million as officially listed.

While the Department of Contracts did not react and has not amended its official document, the Weingard/De Cesare assertion raised suspicions of foul play among the other bidders.

This already led to ‘warnings’ to the Prime Minister of a litigious court case if the Office of the Prime Minister favours, as being suspected, the De Cesare/Weingarg bid.

The big guns

With a €41 million bid, Katari Hospitality is a one-man show.

Construction magnate Paul Attard, who is connected to the GAP Group, owns all three companies behind the consortium – Katari Holdings Limited, Katari Developments Ltd and Golden Care Limited. The latter company is in the business of residential homes for the elderly.

Attard was recently the recipient of a highly-advantageous deal for a large plot of public land in Mellieha at below current market prices.

The area, a green lung in il-Qortin, is to be turned into apartment blocks and millions of euros are to be made in the process.

Attard, who also doubles as the secretary general of the influential Malta Developers Association (MDA), is not known to have experience in hotels and does not appear to have any international partners.

Iconic Hotels Malta/Nobu (of Robert De Niro fame) submitted the second-highest offer at €39.3 million.

The companies behind the Evans Building privatisation bid.

Also included in the Iconic Hotels Malta consortium is the European School of English Limited and the Arrigo Group of Hotels Limited, which counts Veronica and Julian Zammit Tabona among its shareholders. The latter are also co-owners of the Fortina Group, which has been involved in controversial deals and illegalities under the Labour administration.

Melo Hili, who is currently leading the contentious Comino Hotel re-development process, is also after Evans Building through Hili Ventures’ HV Hospitality, which has submitted a €24 million bid.

Angelo Xuereb’s AX Group (€22.6 million) and Silvio Debono’s Seabank Hotel and Catering Ltd (€20.9 million) have no partners and submitted their respective bids in their own companies’ names.

At just €1.2 million, Valletta Luxury Projects has stated publicly that it has submitted the highest bid (€78 million) since it is to be interpreted as an annual fee.

The consortium comprises the Eden Leisure Group and Benny Ltd. The latter is fully controlled by Mark Weingard – a British passport holder who has been investing heavily in Valletta – and a number of minority shareholders, mostly foreigners, together with architect Paul Camilleri.

The Shift has already reported how the De Cesare/Weingard bid and their sudden media announcement contradicting the Department of Contract’s official document, sparked anger among the other bidders and increased suspicions that the ongoing process being led by the Office of the Prime Minister is already compromised.

According to the Request for Proposals (RfP), the award will be given to the bidder with the best price-quality ratio, and which is administratively and technically compliant. This means that the iconic building will not necessarily go to the consortium offering the highest price tag.

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R Pace Bonello
R Pace Bonello
2 months ago

Ha*ia ohra. Who is closest to Bobby?

Gee Mike
Gee Mike
2 months ago

If the bid asked for a lump sun, then 1.2 million yearly will not cut it. I use to work with a company which did this mistake appealed to contracts and lost a further €40k besides the bid bond, so it will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Last edited 2 months ago by Gee Mike
2 months ago

The greedy pigs fighting among themselves, but finally the tender will only be given to the one with the biggest brown envelope.

Noel Ciantar
Noel Ciantar
2 months ago

The claim that the bid by Valletta Luxury Projects, consisting of 65 annual payments of Euro 1.2 million p.a. for a total of Euro 78 million, is sheer nonsense when put in context with the other offers.

One could argue that the offer by Valletta Luxury Projects is in the region of Euro 20 to Euro 25 million, because if one were to deposit a sum of money at an annual return of 5% to yield Euro 1.2 million p.a., the investment has to amount to Euro 24 million. 65 years being, in political terms, an eternity, this property concession, although similar to a temporary emphyteusis, is like a perpetual emphyteusis. Also because there is a good chance that at the end of the 65 years the lease would be renewed. Unless the Moviment Laburista remains in government, and grants the land for 70,000 Euros.

Last edited 2 months ago by Noel Ciantar
Emanuel (Noel) Ciantar
Emanuel (Noel) Ciantar
2 months ago
Reply to  Noel Ciantar

Correction: First paragraph should read: The claim that the bid by Valletta Luxury Projects, consisting of 65 annual payments of Euro 1.2 million p.a. for a total of Euro 78 million, is the highest is sheer nonsense when put in context with the other offers.
Any inconvenience is regretted.

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