By Elias Hazou
THE government has agreed to give the Zenon consortium until the end of the year to secure financing for the Larnaca port and marina project.
In what is a formality, the Communications ministry is expected this week to put to the cabinet a positive proposal for granting the consortium yet another extension.
The development comes after a meeting at the presidential palace yesterday between cabinet members, representatives of the consortium and town officials. It was chaired by President Nicos Anastasiades.
“We were briefed on the progress reached so far in their efforts to finance the grand project,” Communications minister Marios Demetriades told reporters later.
The government was apparently convinced by the consortium that they can lock in investors by year’s end, and decided not to pull the plug.
Asked whether the financing might come from abroad or from Cypriot banks, Demetriades said only that discussions are ongoing “with various parties.”
It is the sixth extension given to the consortium so far.
Larnaca mayor Andreas Louroutziatis said the municipality welcomes the government’s new postponement decision.
The mayor also expressed optimism over the negotiations between Zenon and potential investors and stressed that the development was crucial to securing Larnaca’s growth prospects.
Zenon – consisting of the Paraskevaides Group, Iacovou Bros, Petrolina and Vouros – signed an agreement with the government in 2012 for the development of the Larnaca port and marina worth a reported €700m.
Local banks set to bankroll the project pulled back following last year’s financial crisis and the consortium began seeking financing elsewhere for the marina component of the project.
Once completed, the new port would become the main passenger port of Cyprus able to accommodate large cruise ships and have the potential to serve commercial vessels. The project would feature parks, restaurants, recreation space, shops and other public areas.
Complicating matters, two energy companies – Noble Energy and ENI – have been granted permits to set up shore-base operations within the port, situated next to the marina, and which happens to be an integral component of the grandiose tourism development plans.