April 30, 2020 / 11:16 PM / 24 days ago

UPDATE 1-SkyCity says NZ agrees to declare COVID-19 a force majeure event for key project

(Adds background, expected project completion date)

May 1 (Reuters) - SkyCity Entertainment Group Ltd and the New Zealand government on Friday declared the coronavirus outbreak as a force majeure event for development of one of the country’s largest construction projects.

The casino operator warned earlier this month construction work for the NZ$703 million ($430 million) New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC) project would not be possible due to a country-wide lockdown to curb the virus spread.

The convention centre, which already faced delays late last year after a fire ripped through the complex, is slated to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in 2021.

SkyCity said all parties involved agreed there was significant risk that COVID-19 will continue to affect the construction industry and large projects like the NZICC for some time.

Activating the force majeure clause allows certain terms of an otherwise legally binding agreement to be ignored because of unavoidable circumstances.

SkyCity is the operator of the project and the country’s largest construction firm, Fletcher Building Ltd, is building the convention centre.

SkyCity said it now has until January 2025 to complete the project.

Both SkyCity and Fletcher did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, seeking confirmation whether NZICC would remain as the planned venue to host the APEC meeting. ($1 = 1.6345 New Zealand dollars) (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Shounak Dasgupta)

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