Initially estimated at USD 250 million, David Chow’s Macau Legend Development casino-resort project in Cabo Verde was well received when it was first presented in 2015. With construction well underway, a new revision to the project, proposed by the Macao business mogul and already approved by the local government, contemplates a phased and substantially more cautious approach.
The government has accepted Chow´s proposal to advance, for now, with the tourist complex on the isle of Santa Maria, in the city of Praia, now budgeted at USD 90 million, less than half the amount originally forecast. This is only the first phase of his project.
With a term of 22 months from the publication of a resolution of the Council of Ministers (8 April) altering the agreement with the companies Macau Legend Development (MLD) Cabo Verde Resorts and MLD Cabo Verde Entertainment, the first phase consists of the completion of a hotel-casino with 250 rooms, restaurants, bars and shops as well as the bridge of the isle of Santa Maria.
Subsequent phases of the project will be subject to “market conditions” and “new government policies” and will be presented to the Cape Verdean executive after the completion of the first phase. Initially, the project provided, in addition to the hotel-casino, a tourist marina and a multipurpose congress center, among other infrastructures.
The project had already undergone changes in 2018, namely the location of the casino. Instead of bungalows, the City Council of Praia authorized the construction of a 14-storey building on the beach of Gamboa. The type of connecting bridge between Gamboa and the island of Santa Maria was changed to suspension, instead of landfill.
Local sources relate the decision to implement the tourism venture in phases, and with less investment, to the delay of the central bank (Banco de Cabo Verde, BCV) in authorizing the licensing Chow´s Banco Sino-Atlântico, a financial institution whose creation was announced in 2017, and the process submitted in 2018, after the 6-month deadline initially set.
The bank´s process is still in the Central Bank´s (BCV) Supervision Department, which continues to request documentation, and only after all the requirements – which entail the “history” of the promoter and origin of the capital – have been met, will the dossier be submitted to the BCV Board of Directors, the entity with exclusive competence regarding the licensing of banks, in accordance with the Financial System Basis Law (LBSF) and the Financial Institutions Activities Act (LAIF).
The headquarters and main agency of the BSA was to be located be in the 14-storey building that integrates the complex that Chow is building in Gamboa. In this same building, which is already at an advanced stage of construction, are also set to operate the convention center, on-line casinos and offices.
Soon after the completion of the building, the construction of the hotel-casino, over the water, between the islet and Gamboa, and the gaming spaces with tables, slot machines and a VIP rooms should be initiated. The construction of the casino was also the most controversial component of the project, with the Government giving the company a 25-year concession in the island of Santiago, 15 of which in exclusivity.
The project was conceived as fully integrated, from tourism and gaming to finance, with the bank a central piece. “If one of the pieces is missing, everything is missing”, said a local businessman who has dealt with Macao Legend recently.
The Government decided last year – and included in this year´s state budget – to terminate all “off-shore” banking activities. All existing “off-shore” banks will be given a two-year transition period to traditional banking. Chow could, however, circumvent the new framework by opening one or more agencies.
Chow, 68, is a businessman in the tourism, entertainment and gaming sectors in Macao. He heads the Legend Globe Investment Company. He first started working with Cabo Verde in 2001, when he became its honorary consul in Macau. For his contribution to the country’s economic development, the government gave him the tourism merit medal. The government has also invited Chow to invest in tourism, industry, the financial sector, air and sea transport and all activities that could generate value for the country.
Chow has also been actively looking at opportunities in other lusophone countries, namely Mozambique.
At the 2018 Macao International Fair (MIF), Chow met Mozambican Trade and Industry Minister Ragendra de Sousa to discuss investment opportunities. Present at the meeting was Lourenço Sambo, the head of Mozambique´s investment agency (Apiex), according to our sources.
Ragendra and Sambo were at the MIF to promote their country as an investment destination for Chinese capital. Sambo was particularly active, presenting a set of concrete investment proposals that included real estate and tourism projects in several of the country´s provinces.
Sources say Chow´s company is actively looking into some of these projects. They include the country´s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, where massive natural gas reserves are being developed and production expected to start in the next four to five years. They will begin a significant new growth cycle for the country.