FIJI RETIREMENT FUND BRUSHES OFF INVESTMENT SETBACK

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, June 19) – The Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) says it will continue to protect its investments and assets tied with the Natadola tourism project in light of the cancellation of the foreign investment registration certificate of Natadola Land Holdings (NLH).

[PIR editor’s note: According to its website, the Fiji National Provident Fund is a social security savings scheme jointly supported by employees, employers and government. It was set up in 1966 to provide financial security for workers when they retire at the age of 55.]

The cancellation of this certificate means that NLH cannot engage in the relevant activities specified in it, which is the "development and management of integrated resorts".

In a statement today, FNPF board chairman Peceli Vocea said the Fund was fully aware of the risks and implications of the cancellation of NLH's certificate.

"We have begun informal discussions on the options available in relation to replacing NLH," Vocea said.

Vocea assured members the cancellation of the certificate will not in any way impede the completion of the Natadola project.

"It may slow the progress, but only for a short while, until FNPF through its investment arm the FIL finalises the way forward."

FNPF Investment Limited (FIL) holds 51 per cent shares in NLH. The other 49 per cent is held by Hotels Property Pacific Limited (HPPL) of which APRIL (Hong Kong) is a major shareholder.

APRIL and NLH were issued notices of the cancellation of their foreign investment registration certificates on May 18.

The Foreign Investment Act stipulates that companies are required to file their appeal on the cancellation notices within 25 days to the Minister for Commerce, Investment and Telecommunications. This period lapsed on Tuesday June 12.

Vocea said he has been informed that APRIL lodged an appeal while NLH and HPPL did not.

"I am sure that the FIL Board is already considering options available to it, if the decision of the Minister for Commerce and Investment, on APRIL's case, goes either way," Vocea said.

Vocea said the Natadola project is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.

He added that the FNPF Board will ensure that all identified risks are minimized, and investment returns from the project maximized.

"Sub-committees of the FNPF Board and the NLTB Board had engaged in a series of meetings last week to rectify issues relating to the land where the Natadola project is sitting.

"Cabinet had been updated of the discussions that transpired from these meetings," he said.

He assured members that the FNPF board was fully committed to growing and safeguarding their funds, whilst ensuring that sufficient returns are generated from FNPF investments.

Vocea revealed that potential investors have expressed interest in the Natadola project.

"The FNPF board, in the context of giving general strategic directions on FNPF investments would also be briefed on these expressed interests."

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