Following a meeting with President Demetris Christofias, Triple Five chairman Nader Ghermezian said his firm was interested in investing in tourism, energy, and banking and was also looking into buying an undisclosed number of government bonds.
“I think Cyprus is one of the best countries in the world today to invest in,” Ghermezian told reporters. “Even though the economy is a little bit slow at this time, that should not stop anybody coming here.”
He said they were already talking with the Central Bank with a view to getting into banking and are working on how to get involved in the fields of tourism and energy.
“We hope we can invest in some of the bonds of the government of Cyprus,” he said. “We are looking into this.”
The amount was not disclosed but reports suggested Triple Five was looking into buying some €500 million worth of five-year bonds expected to be auctioned towards the end of the month.
Successive downgrades of the economy from ratings agencies have shut Cyprus out of international markets, forcing the island to turn to close ally Russia for a €2.5 billion bilateral loan. Authorities say the loan will cover its needs this year.
“It’s a relief for us at a moment when we feel effectively excluded from international financial markets and it is our response to all those who consciously or unconsciously effect our exclusion,” Finance Minister Kikis Kazamias said. “And all these people are outside Cyprus,” he added, apparently meaning the ratings agencies.
Ghermezian did not say how much his company was willing to invest in Cyprus.
“We are interested in anything we can do,” he said. “We are big enough that we can do a lot of it.” Gkermezian expressed his belief that Triple Five would also be able to contribute to the development of the energy sector in Cyprus
He said the investments were based on studies and each study would show what was needed.
Kazamias expressed satisfaction for the confidence Ghermezian had in Cyprus.
“It is a message to all of us, not just the government, but all politicians, to evaluate things properly and not shoot ourselves (in the foot),” Kazamias said. “In these difficult times, you saw that there are people with lots of money who trust us because they can see a little bit further than their nose.”
The minister said Triple Five experts would be arriving on the island next week to conclude negotiations with hoteliers about bringing 80,000 to 100,000 tourists by the end of the year with a view to increasing the number in 2013.
Ghermezian suggested his company could bring tourists from North America and Asia. “You have good beaches and good people here,” he said.
Company officials involved in banking will also visit Cyprus towards the end of the month. Triple Five is looking into become active in banking, either through a subsidiary or by setting up a new Cypriot company.
Ghermezian said his company was not interested in opening a casino.
The Triple Five Group is owned and operated by the Ghermezian family of Canada, an orthodox Jewish family, who emigrated from Iran in the 1940s. It is most widely recognised as the owner of the world’s largest mega-mall, recreation, and amusement complex – the West Edmonton Mall that attracts more than 60 million visitors annually.
Triple Five also has ownership in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, the largest mall in the United States. It owns and operates several other shopping and entertainment complexes, hotels, and commercial, industrial, and residential properties throughout the United States and Canada.
The company web site lists Triple Five Group divisions in technology, venture capital, mining, real estate, and banking, in addition to the two mega-malls.
Triple Five also owns Peoples Trust, a federally regulated and chartered bank with several branches throughout Canada, and First Nuclear Corporation, which pursues growth in resource development and exploration.
One of the several business activities listed on the company website is ‘Natural Resources – Oil, Gas and Minerals’, where it states that Triple Five “is diversified in many fields in petro-chemical industries engaging in the exploration, acquisition and production of minerals, oil and gas properties”.
By George Psyllides
Published on March 15, 2012