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Samoa Superannuation fund gave PNG's Lamana Group $22 million loan to Taumeasina Island resort, report reveals

Taumeasina Development Corporation (TDC), which owns the Taumeasina Island Resort, was given a $22 million (US$8.3 million) "convertible loan" by the Samoa National Provident Fund (SNPF).

Brief details of the loan were highlighted in the Fund’s 2018 Annual Report. It comes close to six years after the PNG company denied reports by the Samoa Observer, that they sought financial assistance from the SNPF to build the Taumeasina Island Resort.

A convertible loan is a short-term debt that converts into equity. According to the financial statement in the SNPF 2018 Annual Report, listed under “loans and advances” were brief details of a convertible loan valued at $22,001,232 (US$8,329,575). 

It was $20,950,225 (US$7,921,090) in 2017. There were no further details provided in the report. 

Lamana Development Managing Director, Kostas George Constantinou, expressed surprise when he was contacted and asked to confirm that his company got a convertible loan from the SNPF.

“It is news to me that the Fund lent Lamana Development $22 million (US$8.3 million). I expect you don’t have the correct information,” he said, in an email reply to Samoa Observer.

He then referred this newspaper to SNPF Chief Executive Officer, saying: “In any case it is not for me to comment on the investments of the Fund.  I suggest you speak with the CEO of the Fund.”

SNPF Chief Executive Officer, Pauli Prince Suhren, refused to divulge more information when he was contacted.

He said he is not at liberty to release information on the TDC loan due to client confidentiality.

“For the purpose of accountability to Parliament; disclosure is made of the total value only of those accounts that you refer to in the ‘Notes to Financial Statements’ section of the Annual Report.

“However, I am not at liberty to comment on any specifics regarding these accounts due to strict confidentiality — in just the same way as I would also not be at liberty to comment — if someone asked me about any loans that you may have with the Fund,” he said.

Without giving away too much information, he indicated that the SNPF is not having issues with the loan accounts. 

“Generally, however, both these accounts are performing adequately and within the expectations of the Fund.”

When this newspaper put it to him that the Fund contributors had a right to know about the viability of SNPF investments, Pauli said information contained in the Fund’s annual reports were sufficient.

“This is the reason why we have annual reports – the information contained therein is more than suffice to answer any questions that the public may have — without breaching anyone’s confidentiality rights.” 

He then turned to the reporter and added: “Consider this your argument above also applies to you and me and everyone that has a loan of whatever size with SNPF and if tomorrow we publish for the sake of public interest your loan(s) with us would you be happy? I wouldn’t think so. I would urge anyone to judge SNPF by the main output that measures our performance – the rate of return for our members – most recently it was 10 per cent. Find me a superannuation fund in the region that pays that much.”

The Taumeasina Island Resort, which opened in 2016, comes under a parent company called the Taumeasina Development Corporation Limited. According to the business registry at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labor (MCIL), the Taumeasina Development Corporation Limited was incorporated in Samoa on May 16, 2011 and is owned by Lamana Development (Samoa) Limited, Mineral Resource Development Company Limited (MRDC) and Petroleum Resources Gobe Limited (PRG). The directors of the Taumeasina Development Corporation Limited are Kostas George Constantinou, Augustine Mano and Philip Kende. 

The MRDC is a PNG Government-owned company, which was established to represent State and landowner equity interests in mining and petroleum projects, and manage equity funds for landowner companies in major resource project areas of PNG. The PRG is a company that represents landowner interests in the Gobe oilfields in the Southern Highlands Province of PNG.


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