My posting above didn’t transfer in properly in its entirety. So here it is again. My sincere apologies for the repeat.
I believe that there is good reason to be suspicious of Playastorm/Bram/KIRS request.
* I’ve done much research and analysis of Katafanga Island Resort and Spa (KIRS; sometimes Blue Lagoon Island). The island, beach, reef, and lagoon are indeed incredibly beautiful, and the remote location is very private. I would love to be there in September when the dolphins calve in the west lagoon.
* But while I started off neutral, my careful due-diligence-like analysis of the owner’s offer leads me to be highly critical of Katafanga Island Resort and Spa. In my opinion the island has been over-hyped, the claims are unsubstantiated, and the offer is grossly over-priced. This is what is driving me to present some (hopefully) objective balance.
* The owners excessively use flowery words of, “truly world-class ... ultimate vacation destination ... with exquisitely-furnished lavish-bures (villas) ... and experienced spa professionals and world acclaimed chef” (these are THEIR words). In my opinion, even their valuation ‘expert’ came across as an excited marketing department employee; I’m highly sceptical of the valuation findings.
* As for true business value, keep in mind that while they have invested some money (such as on the gravel roadway, generators, water), they are NOT in operation or resort-staffed, and have only STARTED on the buildings and other infrastructure such as the runway and marina. And it appears that since 2003 there has been virtually no work done (and even this was after a couple of years of slow-down). The corollary is that none of the above hype actually yet exists and is proven.
* Furthermore, the incomplete building skeletons and infrastructure have been sitting there exposed to the elements for many years. For example, the roof supports appear to be rusting notably, and would have to be rehabilitated at added expense before construction could even resume.
* Establishing a luxury resort is a major undertaking; so the recent attempt to use near-volunteer labor of a few people to do small bits of construction is totally insufficient. I can’t help but conclude that such trivial steps are intended to give the illusion that the business is not defunct. An analogy: painting the outer walls of a defunct, hollow factory.
* The matter of whether the ‘business model is proven or at least justified’ is the next thing to keep in mind. The company's 'confidential' offer memorandum describes their model/plan/projections. They appear to make some overly generous assumptions about income rates and occupancy. Remember, there are many tropical resorts world-wide, and only a relatively few people willing to pay such high rates – it seems that even some established luxury resorts in Fiji don’t charge as much as KIRS plan to, and still don’t accomplish KIRS’s projected occupancy.
* Also, KIRS appears to be unduly optimistic in how low their costs will be. Remember, this is a very isolated location, with few supply options, and all of those are expensive and rarely occurring, and imported labor.
* Basic business is that profit equals income less expenses. Using some of KIRS optimistic numbers, I calculated that the operation of the resort would only just barely be profitable. This is the best case scenario. Moreover, it appears that it would take extremely little ‘adverse reality’ for the resort to be losing money.
* As for the business decision on return on investment, a key consideration is recuperating capital costs. As far as I can tell, the ‘confidential’ offer memorandum completely ignores this; they seem to think that only the resort ‘operation’ needs to be profitable. An analogy for why this is flawed: if I buy the island for $25M, then operate a coconut stand for passing boats wherein I earn $200 a year less $10 for the cost of harvesting the coconuts, I am making an incredible profit in the same model as used by KIRS ... but in reality I am NOT factoring in all elements of determining a return on investment. A subsequent analysis of this consideration indicates that low-rate T-bills still perform better than KIRS, even when using their optimistic numbers.
* Business is a cold, sober calculation; coldly, I conclude that the Resort and Spa as presented is economically unviable. Dreams won’t change what is unviable. I highly suspect this is the main reason they stopped construction; they probably did some more-realistic number crunching, and discovered they were getting themselves deeper into a losing proposition.
* Additional ‘business’ considerations: their numbers are hard to follow, inconsistent, and seemingly unsubstantiated. Additionally, they use US$ for the asking price, yet sometimes the listings bandy about investment costs without making the distinction that the latter are in Fiji dollars (which are about 0.5 US$) (this web site is one such site that doesn’t make this distinction; personally, I think that this is deceptive advertising). Also, the price of the island factors in the investments that they claim they have already made, even though some key assets appear to now be gone (such as the air-arm and the shipping-arm). Using their numbers (and not deducting any depreciation or deterioration), I estimate the remaining investment to at the very best to be worth only US$6.9M. Obviously, however, most of these assets are weathered, and even if not weathered they are still of negligible or no value if KIRS is not viable. Finally, the above business decision doesn’t even start to factor in the notable risk associated with the uncertain and at times dubious political situation in Fiji.
* So if the resort business is not viable, then the island is only worth what it can be sold for as just an island to be used for personal-only purposes (that is, unless you are government, and believe in reimbursing people for their failed investments, and in this case apparently an attempt also for a failed good-will premium). The owner says he purchased it for $2million in 1992. In 1999, prior to substantial construction, there was apparently a valuation of $10million (I presume in US$). This MAY have been sort of reasonable - BUT ONLY AT THE TIME. Island prices are fickle, and go up and down a great deal. So first it had gone up in a big jump, and now I gather that the world market for islands has dropped in price by some 40% or more (including because of the economic crisis). Also, don’t forget to factor in the cost of removing any of the unsightly resort skeletons that you won’t need for personal use (would YOU want to live amongst such ‘ruins’?).
* A comparison with other islands: nearby Mango (sometimes Mago) Island (5000 acres, as I recall, compared to 225 acres here) went for $14.8million (before the recent and ongoing economic downturn). Also, there is currently (January 2011) a Fiji island only moderately smaller than Katafanga but MUCH closer to communities and tourist centers that is being offered at US$7million (and this does include a good-will premium for an apparently viable resort business plan). World-wide there are many other good options at comparable or lower prices.
* It seems that in their hype KIRS also like to wrap themselves in the aura of the most successful resort islands. For example, they cite Branson’s Necker Island. Similarly, they play up that their architects worked on Disney and a Jack Nicholas course.
* An analogy to KIRS overall hype: my old Mazda has similar sweeping lines to a Porsche Turbo S – all that is needed is for someone else to buy it and invest in a ‘Fulfil Your Dreams’ revamp to bring it up to the same ‘lavish’ standard, and then convince hundreds of people to pay a grand each for a ride. My Mazda is even rare (well, it is the only one left in my ‘hood), and YOU could restore it; I hear that restored rare antiques are worth even more. I’ll accept the premium for all of this, and you do the rest.
* Katafanga has apparently been on the market since 2005. It will likely be on the market for many more years, unless the asking price is dropped considerably (say to $US7m?). Or perhaps they are hoping for some bedazzled suddenly-flush celebrity to foolishly rush in before he (I doubt it could ever be a ‘she’) has retained a business manager.
* (note: these are all just opinions; also, all of the facts that I have are from the internet (but I have strived to substantiate them). I approached KIRS to input additional data into my analysis, but one of the owner's representatives rudely declined and did not seem to be interested in either an objective analysis or even in facts, while another representative was polite but after several months has yet to provide anything of substance. One of the owners responded with the mere justification that he 'feels' that what he is doing is ok, and provided absolutely no counter facts when I offered him the opportunity. Never-the-less, I still welcome their input, preferably as CREDIBLE facts. I’m K.R. at KatafangaReviewer@yahoo.com