Going, going, going, gone. Erindi sold at last, or almost
The third-richest man in Mexico, Alberto Baillères (87), worth about US$11 billion according to Forbes, is in the final stages of a transaction to acquire full ownership of Erindi Game Ranch.
Mr Baillères, described in the official announcement as a highly respected Mexican business leader and philanthropist, is the President of the multi-national BAL Group. He also has interests in several other conservation ranches in different parts of the world.
The selling of Erindi has been dragging since 2013 when the majority owner, Mr Gert Joubert, first announced his intention to sell the 75,000 hectare ranch for a price of N$1.1 billion. At a later stage, this was upped to N$1.3 billion but the intended sale never went through due to legal confusion over the status of Erindi’s land. In 2014 the sale was effectively scuttled as the government insisted that Erindi is agricultural land and not a tourism investment.
Over the ensuing years the legal wrangling continued but was seemingly resolved since Erindi can only be sold to a foreigner with ministerial consent under Article 58 of the Land Reform Act.
The transaction is still subject to approval by the Namibian Competition Commission which may pose some obstacles since there is nothing that competes with Erindi in sheer scope and size.
On Wednesday it was announced that the transaction complies with all governmental and regulatory approvals, a condition set by Baillères before committing to the purchase.
It is the new owner’s intention to invest an additional N$200 million over the next five years in Erindi to create a world-class conservation area and to develop its tourism potential to the fullest.
On top of the substantial tourist income from the lodge and adjacent camps, Erindi grosses approximately N$20 million from its annual game auction. It is a leading supplier of high-value exotic game to other Namibian game farms and lodges.
According to the announcement, all jobs will be preserved and the assurance was given that future profits will primarily be reinvested in Erindi.
News of the sale has been received positively by the local business community in particular the large players in the tourism industry. It is seen as a very positive signal to foreign investors, countering the damage done by the 2017 land conference where it was resolved that foreigners can rent land but not own it.
Erindi’s sale is the first concrete signal that foreign investors are again welcome in Namibia and that they can own the land in which they invest albeit with special permission from the Minister of Land Reform.