Dutch initiative is open for business

New investment fund aims to catch wave of interest in Cuba

Aiming at wealthy individual investors, the Amsterdam-based conglomerate Romar group has launched aprivate investment fund for Cuban undertakings.

Initiated by the Romar group which has had many years of operating in Cuba, the Cuba Financial Fund is a separate entity with its own organization and governance.

“As Cuba is seeking more and more foreign investments in all areas of business — leisure, industry, transport, agriculture — we have started the development of an investment fund that aims to work side by side with Cuba to develop projects,” Romar’s Eric Tolsma says.

Principal Ronald Buijk says the fund is aiming at high net-worth individuals as investors.

Romar group, which is active in equipment sales, development, trading, finance and logistics in Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe, has kept a low profile during the almost 20 years it has done business in Cuba, but the family-owned company is now emerging as an important link with the island for investors.

Romar’s development arm, Q Hospitality, is negotiating construction of four hotels, one each in Havana, Viñales, Trinidad and Santa Lucía. Plans also include construction of a 80-mw wind farm in Cuba. However, its most ambitious project is a marina and real estate development at Tarará, just east of Havana.

Romar began planning on Tarará two-and-half years ago. The company expects to expand a 270-yacht marina and renovate hotels at the gated luxury community in East Havana that was mainly built in the 1940s by American Royal S. Webster.

The project is currently on hold as the city of Havana is evaluating its overall development strategy, which includes the area of Tarará.

The first phase of the project includes dredging, rebuilding and expanding the marina, and renovating an existing motel, official business weekly Opciones reported last year. Romar’s long-term plans include construction of a pier for mega-yachts, hotel and aparthotel, bungalows, condominiums, restaurant, bars, shops, and an 18-hole golf course.

The architect for the project is Roberto Meyer, owner of MVSA International B.V., a high-profile architecture firm in the Netherlands.

Tarará, which includes 400 homes, a motel, beach, marina, cultural center, cafeteria, hard-currency store, Che Guevara museum and pool, was started by U.S. real estate developers in the 1920s. It acquired its current modernistic look in the 1940s, when most homes in the compound were built. Just after the revolution, Che Guevara cured his asthma here; in the 1970s, the government turned Tarará into a young pioneer camp; in the 1990s, the compound hosted Ukrainian children sickened by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and most recently, it became temporary home for Venezuelan patients of the Operación Milagro eye surgery program.

Lack of resources caused buildings and other infrastructure to decay in the 1990s.

In 2001, state companies Cubanacan and Cubalse were put in charge to renovate the compound, add a hotel and other tourism infrastructure, and re-do the street grid. On April 1 this year, state holding Corporación CIMEX took over Residencial Tarará, after the government dissolved Cubalse S.A.