Cash-strapped Senegal puts biggest hotel up for sale
DAKAR Feb 4 (Reuters) - Senegal, under pressure to settle millions of dollars' worth of debts to local businesses, put the country's biggest hotel complex up for sale on Wednesday.
Located on a spit of land protruding into the Atlantic Ocean on mainland Africa's most westerly point, the 5-star King Fahd hotel complex was built and financed by the Saudi monarch for an Organisation of the Islamic Conference summit in 1993.
Currently operated under the Meridien brand of U.S.-listed Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc (HOT.N), the 384-room hotel and conference centre hosted a second Islamic Conference summit in the West African country last year.
Following that summit and a related programme of public works, the government identified 74 billion CFA francs ($147 million) in unbudgeted spending, and a 174 billion CFA franc backlog of debts to local businesses.
President Abdoulaye Wade promised in November to repay those debts by the end of January, but Finance Minister Abdoulaye Diop said on Wednesday that 43 billion CFA francs worth of debts were still outstanding, and would be paid by the end of February.
France agreed to lend Senegal 125 million euros ($161 million) to help pay off the debts and the International Monetary Fund approved a $75.6 million, one-year funding deal from its Exogenous Shocks Facility (ESF) in December to mitigate the effects of last year's surge in food and energy prices.
A public tender published in Senegalese newspapers on Wednesday invited bids from local or international investors for the hotel complex, which has a 35-hectare site including a 9-hole golf course, but gave no price guidance.
The hotel's management said it had no comment to make on the proposed sale and Starwood Hotels representatives in New York could not be reached for immediate comment. ($1=502.5 Cfa Franc; $1=.7776 Euro) (Reporting by Diadie Ba; writing by Alistair Thomson; editing by Simon Jessop)
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