Tumas Group in €5 million overhaul of VGT quay

Full plan for state-of-the-art Mrie?el office block to be submitted next week

Tumas Group is to enter negotiations with the government over a small extension to the quay at Valletta Gateway Terminals, part of a €5 million overhaul of the former Sea Malta berth, chairman George Fenech told The Times Business.The wider project, which Mr Fenech said is slightly ahead of budget, is intended to allow VGT to provide a wider range of services, including the accommodation of Virtù Ferries’ new, larger vessels. Tumas Group – with its wide-ranging portfolio spanning more than 35 operations – is currently focused on developing its real estate Malta leasing projects, particularly to meet increasing demand for top quality office space. Architect Ray Demicoli has finalised plans for a state-of-the-art office block along the Mrie?el strip, fast becoming one of the island’s foremost business districts. The block, occupying nine tumoli of land adjacent to Gasan Centre, is a joint project of the Tumas and Gasan groups.

It will encompass a total 35,000 square metres of office space in Malta.The full plan for Phase I will be submitted to planning authorities next week. The first phase of the project will include the development of 20,000 square metres’ office space in Malta and underlying parking for 500 cars. “This will be a state-of-the-art, open plan office block able to meet the requirements of the most exigent tenants,” Mr Fenech explained. “It will be almost entirely non-retail, with the only outlets permitted aimed at accommodating the demands of employees like a cafè bistro and a stationer.  There will be a child day care centre and a gym. The striking façade will feature curtains of greenery behind which there will be glass corridors framing the offices. Tenants will be able to start moving in by early 2013.”Further down the road, at the business centre housing Deloitte, Forestals and the Lotteries and Gaming Authority, Tumas Group has leased 1,000 square metres to Bank of Valletta subsidiary Valletta Fund Management which is to relocate from Floriana shortly. Meanwhile, Tumas Group is planning an additional 2,500-square metre floor and extra parking facilities to the premises currently leased to HSBC, British American Tobacco and PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Qormi.Ta’ Monita, the 180-unit residential village in Marsascala, another joint venture with Gasan Group, will now begin to be marketed more widely as its shell form is almost complete. Sixty units have already been sold. The project was inspired by Portomaso, the high-end residences developed around the centrepiece Hilton Malta in St Julian’s. The jewel in Tumas Group’s portfolio of residential ventures – as the first of its kind, it spearheaded the spate of ambitious luxury developments by other groups in the wider area – Portomaso remains one of Malta’s most desirable addresses with resale values continuing to rise.  Mr Fenech is encouraged by the early signs of recovery in tourism which have allowed for some increases in rates at the group’s major properties Hilton Malta and the Dolmen in Qawra. “The Hilton Malta has performed much better than we had hoped and revenue is up by €1 million,” Mr Fenech pointed out. “The Evian Hilton on Lake Geneve has also performed slightly better than projected.”

At the Dolmen, occupancy rose by eight per cent in February and March and by 10 per cent in May. April’s figures, down sharply by 11 per cent, were severely dented by the ash cloud crisis. Projections for June are showing a 10 per cent gain and could rise even further as the late booking trend persists this year. Tumas Group’s financing arm Tumas Investments plc, has just announced a 10-year, €20 million bond issue, with an over-allotment option of an additional €5 million. The nominal value is €100 issued at par. The bonds are unsecured but are guaranteed by Spinola Development Company Ltd. Copies of the prospectus will be available from June 11.Mr Fenech said proceeds from the issue will be used firstly for the redemption of the Tumas Investments plc 6.7 per cent Bond 2010-2012 on July 9. The rest of the funds will be channelled towards the part re-financing of existing borrowings and general funding purposes of Spinola Development Company Ltd and its subsidiaries.

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