British-Iranian Entrepreneur Ali Parsa Behind Enormous Prukljan Investment

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, one whole year after submitting the bid in the public tender of the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property, and as many as seven years after being included in the list of strategic projects, the Croatian Government finally gave the thumbs up to a bid from the only bidder who applied for the Prukljan project in Skradin. According to numerous announcements, the move should result in more than 300 million euros of investment.

The aforementioned tender is for the sale and concession of land near Prukljan Lake and the company Dalmatia sport and health resort, based in Split, whose first founder in 2007 was the Dutch company Wittens Praktijk. The former left the company to a new owner a year ago, and The Dalmatian Resort Croatia was also registered in that same country.

In the background of the Prukljan investment project, as a guarantor through his companies, stands Ali Parsa, a British-Iranian entrepreneur with a rich career as an investment banker, who took his place in this challenging scene as the founder of Babylon Health, a system that provides 24-hour healthcare and video messaging via a mobile app.

Parsa founded Babylon Health Ali Parsa back in 2013, and with a system used in more than 60 countries, it has enabled him to rank among the most influential and wealthy people in all of Britain, and that Northern European island nation isn’t short when it comes to rich individuals.

Ali Parsa doesn’t actually appear directly in the offer for the project of building a golf course, hotels and tourist villas, nor is he mentioned in the plans for the nautical port and wharf in Prukljan, but his name does come up for the Split company Dalmatia sport and health resort. This verification is one of the main reasons why the process of assessing the acceptability of a bid that met all the required conditions took so long.

It turned out to be a problem that instead of a letter of intent from a bank that had to meet exactly the prescribed criteria, a certificate from Nedbank Private World from the island of Jersey was submitted in regard to the existence of money for the project in the amount of 100 million kuna.

As stated in the explanation of the government’s decision, the money is owned by a legal entity that is in some indefinite relationship with the investor, who can obtain the said financing.

“In addition to not being familiar with the regulations governing banking on the island of Jersey, and due to the importance of the project for both the local community and the Croatian economy as a whole, the State Attorney’s Office of the Republic of Croatia was asked to comment on whether we can invite investors to submit letter of intent.

The State Attorney’s Office responded positively and continued to act, and at the request of the Ministry, the investor submitted the requested letter of intent, by which the bank confirmed that it will issue a bank guarantee in the amount of 14 million euros, which is more than the requested 100 million kuna. Noting that the bidder submitted a valid bank guarantee for the seriousness of the bid, also in excess of the required amount, by more than 20 million kuna, it ended up being practically uncollectible due to the swift address of the Croatian National Bank, which doesn’t deal with payment traffic from private persons.

The problem was solved by changing the swift address and switching to Hrvatska poštanska banka, thus eliminating the last problem of accepting an offer for one of the largest investments in Croatian tourism.

Along the shores of Prukljan Lake, on an area covering nearly 200 hectares, the Prukljan investment project foresees the building of a golf course with 18 holes, hotels and urban villas with a capacity of up to 1500 beds and at least four stars, as well as a nautical tourism port.

For this purpose, the state is selling a total of 54 hectares of and, for which the investor will pay 46 million kuna, of which 29 million kuna for 30 hectares of land is intended for the construction of a hotel with 1,500 beds, and 17 million for land for the construction of tourist villas.

For the construction of a golf course (18 + 9 holes) with all of the accompanying infrastructure, the Croatian Government has approved the establishment of building rights for a period of 99 years on 136 hectares of land, which the investor will pay 2.6 million kuna per year.

The investor was also granted a 50-year concession on the maritime domain for the purpose of the economic use of two beaches and the construction and use of a nautical tourism port, for which a fixed fee was determined per concessioned area, and variable at 2 percent of annual revenue and a gradual increase of 0.5 percent every five years.

The contract for the Prukljan investment project will be signed within three months at the latest, and the realisation will follow in the next five years.

From available sources in government circles, it has been unofficially learned that health tourism will be developed in Prukljan, which correlates with the background in this investment, as it regards the founder of Babylon Heath, but it is interesting that the Prukljan investment isn’t being strongly promoted, which indicates the Government’s caution regarding, among other things, the Croatian public’s sensitivities about golf courses and the issues that have surrounded them thus far.

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