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UCC Group mega-complex for Trelawny, IPO still on the cards

Spectrum Capital Partners, the investment arm of the UCC Group, is scouting joint-venture partners for the development of a resort and neighbouring residential housing project in Trelawny, adding to plans to create a university town in western Jamaica.

The investment firm says it is in the process of acquiring “hundreds of acres” of beachfront property in Trelawny, on which all three developments will be erected, but is also hunting for co-investors for the land purchase and real estate developments.

In the meantime, UCC is remains wedded to its plan to list on the Jamaica Stock Exchange via an initial public offering of shares that’s expected to hit the market in the fall.

“There are still plans in place to list the UCC. In fact, we have already engaged a broker and we seek to have the prospectus out by the end of October,” said Executive Chairman of the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean and UCC Group, Dr Winston Adams.

“Our target is no longer the junior market, instead, we aim to raise $2 billion on the main market,” he said.

Spectrum did not name the seller of the Trelawny lands, but said it already has an agreement to acquire the property that was signed last August.

The deal is to be completed by the end of October, but if that deadline passes, then UCC has the option to offer the land to other interested buyers.

“We are still in the process of completing the acquisition of the property,” Adams said.

“It’s one of the reasons we are seeking joint-venture partners who might be interested in coming on board to complete the acquisition of the property itself, and secondly, to join us in the multifaceted developments,” he added. “Apart from seeking a joint-venture partner, worst-case scenario, we are seeking to attract investors who might want to purchase the option for sale which we have with the vendor.”

The value of the property was not disclosed, nor whether Spectrum has pumped any funds into the acquisition to date.

Adams says Spectrum has received interest from prospective investors in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, but wants to widen the pool of candidates for the multifaceted development, for which a business plan is being developed by accounting and consulting firm PwC.

UCC’s plan to establish a university town, to be called Caribbean Knowledge City, was first broached eight years ago. In 2021, the company appeared to be making headway when it began the process of acquiring 30 acres of land at Ironshore, Montego Bay, but Adams said that deal later fell through.

The new site in Trelawny, which is adjacent to the North Coast Highway, is to be developed in phases.

“We are open to one joint-venture partner on all three projects, or it may be a case where we might select three partners for the three projects.”

The scope of the resort and residences targeted at the middle- to upper-income brackets were not disclosed, but the university town will include facilities for technical and vocational training for global students, a public library, varied residential and shopping areas, banks, restaurants, cultural and creative arts facilities, and government agencies.

It’s designed to accommodate up to 5,000 students using shared academic services, while the residential facilities will cater to 500 students. Part of the property will also be used as a research facility, where alliances will be sought with research companies, innovators, and agencies.

The budget for the development of the Caribbean Knowledge City is about $3 billion.

Regarding the overall project: “The proposed development will be phased, such that we have positive cash flows coming from the first phase. The first phase will be the residential units, and should quickly be followed by the proposed university town,” Adams said.

He added that studies done on the area show that there is strong demand for housing, some of which are expected to be taken up by employees in the tourism sector alongside individuals seeking vacation properties.

REMax Elite Realty, a real estate franchise owned by Spectrum Capital, will be the lead broker for the marketing and sale of the units.

Spectrum acquired both the business of REMax Elite Realty and the REMax Jamaica regional franchise portfolio in October 2021 from Marquis Holding.

Both companies are now part of the UCC Real Estate Investment and Development, or UCC REID, the real estate and property arm of the UCC Group launched in March 2020 to develop additional campuses across the Caribbean, and to spearhead the group’s residential and commercial developments in Jamaica.

Both companies are expected to be listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, after the listing of the UCC.

Proceeds from the UCC IPO, said Adams, will support the construction of the university town; while capital raised from the second offering will go towards the expansion of REMax in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

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