Aiming at wealthy individual investors, Amsterdam-based conglomerate Romar group is launching a private investment fund for Cuban undertakings.

Company officials told Cuba Standard in early November that a prospectus for their "Cuba Financial Fund" was about to be finalized. Although initiated by Romar group, the fund is a separate entity with its own organization and governance, company officials said.

"As Cuba is seeking more and more foreign investments in all areas of business — leisure, industry, transport, agriculture — we have started the development of an investment fund that aims to work side by side with Cuba to develop projects," Romar's Eric Tolsma said in an e-mail message.

"We are preparing the introduction of the fund to investors and have been looking at different investment opportunities/projects for some time," he added. "Under the current financial climate in the world, we cannot predict how large the fund will be after the first round closes."

Principal Ronald Buijk said the fund is aiming at high net-worth individuals as investors.

Romar's move comes just weeks after Cuban authorities arrested the head of another foreign conglomerate in Cuba, London-based Coral Capital Ltd., apparently over allegations of corruption, and shuttered its Havana offices, according to Reuters. Coral had been in the initial stages of raising funds for an ambitious golf real estate project at Bellomonte, east of Havana, and operated a trading business.

Romar group, which is active in equipment sales, development, trading, finance and logistics in Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe, has kept a low profile during the almost 20 years it has done business in Cuba, but the family-owned company is now edging into the spotlight.

The money raised through the Cuba Financial Fund would initially be used to start the company's development projects and support the operations of its trading business, WOMY Equipment Supply B.V., which imports buses, trucks and other equipment as well as spare parts in Cuba.

The company also operates a logistics branch and a finance arm that offers leasing programs.

Romar's development arm, Q Hospitality, is negotiating construction of four hotels, one each in Havana, Viñales, Trinidad and Santa Lucía. Plans also include construction of a 80-mw wind farm in Cuba. However, its most ambitious project is a marina and real estate development at Tarará, just east of Havana.

Romar began planning on Tarará two-and-half years ago. The company expects to expand a 270-yacht marina and renovate hotels at the gated luxury community in East Havana that was mainly built in the 1940s by American Royal S. Webster.

The project is currently on hold as the city of Havana is evaluating its overall development strategy, which includes the area of Tarará.

The first phase of the project includes dredging, rebuilding and expanding the marina, and renovating an existing motel, official business weekly Opciones reported last year. Romar's long-term plans include construction of a pier for mega-yachts, hotel and aparthotel, bungalows, condominiums, restaurant, bars, shops, and an 18-hole golf course.

The architect for the project is Roberto Meyer, owner of MVSA International B.V., a high-profile architecture firm in the Netherlands.

Tarará, which includes 400 homes, a motel, beach, marina, cultural center, cafeteria, hard-currency store, Che Guevara museum and pool, was started by U.S. real estate developers in the 1920s. It acquired its current modernistic look in the 1940s, when most homes in the compound were built. Just after the revolution, Che Guevara cured his asthma here; in the 1970s, the government turned Tarará into a young pioneer camp; in the 1990s, the compound hosted Ukrainian children sickened by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and most recently, it became temporary home for Venezuelan patients of the Operación Milagro eye surgery program.

Lack of resources caused buildings and other infrastructure to decay in the 1990s.

In 2001, state companies Cubanacan and Cubalse were put in charge to renovate the compound, add a hotel and other tourism infrastructure, and re-do the street grid. On April 1 this year, state holding Corporación CIMEX took over Residencial Tarará, after the government dissolved Cubalse S.A.

By: Johannes Werner

Cuba Financial Fund's comment:
Whilst CFF is initiated by Romar group, the Fund is structured completely separate. But of course will benefit from the strong position of Romar in Cuba.

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