Arab sheik bids for Vale do Lobo

Saudi businessman Sheikh Mohamed Bin Isser Al Jaber is reported to have presented a bid for Vale do Lobo resort, with media saying the deal will be completed “very soon”.

According to Jornal de Negócios, the 56-year-old sheikh, who already owns a lot of business in the Algarve, is the highest bidder for the 25% holding that Portuguese bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) has in Vale do Lobo, and which it has been trying to sell for over a year.

The newspaper adds that the deal is in its “final stages” and should be completed by the end of June.

If it moves forward, it will be the second major Algarve property transaction for 2015. Only last month, American equity fund Lone Star bought nearby Vilamoura for €200 million.

The Resident has tried to get a statement from Vale de Lobo but as yet have received no confirmation either way.

This could be because Vale do Lobo management hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons at the weekend over police investigations into “Operation Marquês” – the ongoing fraud and corruption investigation that sees former prime minister José Sócrates held in Évora jail since last November.

According to reports in national media on Sunday, “super-judge” Carlos Alexandre and prosecutor Rosário Teixeira led swoops on the resort as well as on homes by “some managers connected to the group”.

At issue, writes national tabloid Correio da Manhã, are money transfers made by defendants already cited in the investigation and said to involve “some shareholders in Vale do Lobo’s holding company”.

One of these shareholders was named on Sunday as Hélder Bataglia, of Escom – a firm with “huge connections with Angola” and which oversaw transfers to José Sócrates’ jailed co-defendant Carlos Santos Silva via Joaquim Barroca, the son of the founder of Group Lena, writes CM.

For the time being, it has not been reported whether any of the recent searches in Vale do Lobo have resulted in new defendants being named.

Meantime, a look at Al Jaber’s website sees the businessman – described as Saudi Arabia’s third most rich businessman – presented as a “self-made Arab entrepreneur and philanthropist who has successfully built an international business empire spanning Europe and the Middle East”.

He already owns Vale do Lobo’s Dona Filipa Hotel, Portimão’s world-famous Penina Hotel and Quinta do Lago’s flagship golfcourses, San Lourenzo and Pinheiros Altos.

He is also “founder, Chairman and CEO of MBI Group, which has assets valued in excess of $9 billion; and founder and sole patron of the MBI Al Jaber Foundation, a UK registered charity focused on building bridges between the Middle East and the wider world, working in three key areas: education, cultural dialogue and good governance”.