PanJam opens ROK Hotel
A front render of the Rok Hotel in downtown Kingston. (Photo: Panjam)

Following delays associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic, PanJam Investments Limited opened the ROK Hotel, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, in downtown, Kingston, on Tuesday, July 19.

The property, which was the former Oceana Hotel, is located at the corner of King Street and Ocean Boulevard and represents the investment holding company's second major hotel development. The first eight floors are part of the general hotel space with 168 hotel rooms while the ninth to twelfth floors are reserved for residential living with 42 residences split between six penthouses and 36 apartments. The residential units and PanJam's two acres of undeveloped land in Norbrook were valued at $1.01 billion as of March 31. The property is operated by ROK Operating Limited with most of the residential unit sales completed already.

"We have already received bookings, but I can't disclose in what amount for the ROK. We've had from both local and overseas inquiries. I can say it's not just from the diaspora but also for business and from tourism-related to leisure. We are excited about the ROK, to get the doors open and Mr [Stephen] Facey is more excited than I am to get that done. Our expectation is to have the next AGM at the ROK. There are indeed exciting times ahead," said Chief Executive Officer Joanna Banks at the company's May annual general meeting. Banks became CEO of PanJam in July 2021.

The location has already received praise from the likes of Andrea Dempster Chung, co-founder of Kingston Creative, and other visitors to the general lobby and 'ROKstone' poolside bar and grill. The Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation also welcomed the new development at its monthly meeting as part of the redevelopment of the area. Banks even indicated that the return of business travel has generated substantial interest in the location being fully booked out for those events.

"We've gotten interest in the conference centre for meetings and international conferences as well. I love that our location is next to the Jamaica Conference Centre which has seen an uptick in bookings for international conferences. So, having the hotel next to the conference centre has seen a lot of inquiries for booking the hotel in its entirety for that centre," Banks added.

This forms part of PanJam's investment in the downtown area surrounding the theme of 'Downtown is Back'. Its prime investment is the Scotiabank Centre which primarily hosts the head offices of Scotia Group Jamaica Limited and PricewaterhouseCoopers Jamaica operations. Recently, Marlon James' novel Get Millie Black was being adapted as a UK Channel 4 series which saw parts of downtown closed off for filming.

This is the second hotel project for PanJam after opening the 129-room The Courtyard by Marriott Kingston in December 2015 with PanJam owning a 35 per cent stake in Caribe Hospitality Limited. Its associate stake in tourism/hospitality which includes Chukka Caribbean Adventures Limited carrying value was $80.06 million at the end of 2021.

PanJam's subsidiary Baywest Development Limited received approval from the National Environmental and Planning Agency in September 2021 for the development of five acres of undeveloped land in the Montego Bay Freeport. These included the construction and operation of office and commercial complexes including shopping centres of 5,000 square metres or greater, a hotel or resort complex and development of 10 to 25 houses at Lots B16, B18 and B19. PanJam originally acquired the land in 2018.

"Given that we may have the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, we are evaluating our options for the property within the framework of a reinvigorated global tourism market. We will inform our shareholders when we have updates. As always, we are evaluating projects in a number of sectors. Should we find any that meet our investment guidelines and garner management and board approval, we will provide that information to our shareholders," Banks explained in a recent update.

Banks had originally indicated at the AGM that the hotel development would be built to suit the business travellers who don't necessarily require the amenities of an all-inclusive resort but would still want the benefit of a business hotel focused on conference centres and other amenities to suit their needs. Air traffic at the Sangster International Airport surpassed pre-COVID numbers for June to 393,100 passengers.

PanaJm was founded in 1964 and has primarily been an active real estate player with some of its other notable property holdings including the Manor Park Plazas, CIBC FirstCaribbean Building and PanJam Building, IBM Building and Tourism Centre in New Kingston. However, the first quarter for its property management and rental segment saw a 30 per cent cut in its segment result to $148.93 million with net profit declining 76 per cent to $42.53 million.

Despite this reduction, PanJam's net profit attributable to shareholders grew to $1.06 billion in the first quarter largely driven by its investment in associates, primarily its 30.21 per cent stake in Sagicor Group Jamaica Limited. Its asset base climbed six per cent to $66.42 billion with its equity attributable to shareholders at $50.46 billion. PanJam's stock closed at $63.61 which leaves it down two per cent year to date with a market capitalisation of $67.82 billion.

Deputy CEO Paul Hanworth will be retiring from his current executive role later this year while remaining on the board. PanJam will provide updates later in the year on its investment in International CX Limited which is a start up in the business processing outsourcing space.

"In line with the global recovery in tourism, our investments in hospitality and tourist attractions are seeing improved results. Occupancy rates at the Courtyard by Marriott Kingston and the Aloft Miami Airport are up, and visitors to Chukka properties throughout the region have increased. While we cannot predict the end of the pandemic, we are cautiously optimistic about the near-term performance of the tourism and hospitality sectors. Our investments in the Courtyard by Marriott Kingston and Chukka Caribbean are well positioned to take advantage of any economic recovery that may come," Banks closed.


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