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Business News Sat, 29 Mar 2003

Investor Confidence Under Threat

The UTC Estates of Ghana Ltd. is having its arms twisted to loosen its grip on plots 74 and 75A OTB in Kumasi, which have come under dispute since October 2000, two years after the company had legally acquired it.

The said plots had been leased out on May 25,1999 to the UTC by the government through the Lands Commission, in trust for the Golden Stool and the Kumasi State, for 20 years, from January 1,1998 to December 31, 2018.

The lease with file number K2586, accompanying plan NLDA1012/K2586and title no.193 under serial No. 334/99, was duly registered by the Registrar of Lands on June 21,1999.

Having paid a premium of ?80 million, UTC was to pay ?4.5 million per annum as rent.As part of the terms of the lease, the lessee, UTC, was to commence the erection of the main building with an estimated construction cost of not less than ?1 billion within two years and that any building on the said land should be designed for commercial purposes only.

An additional ?800 million and more had, as at December, last year, been invested to develop the property.

The Building Development Plan submitted to the Kumasi Planning Committee on October 13, 1999 and the Development Permit No. ODU/SEC 11/99/80 was approved on August 23, 2001 while the Building Permit No.8.01 was issued on November 1, 2001.

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Following these procedures and the clauses in the lease, UTC developed a joint venture business relationship with Alexiboat Productions and developed the plots into one of the finest private commercial buildings, christened 'Tiwaa House,' which houses the Kumasi branch of the Stanbic Bank, among other commercial outlets.

The venture remains a mutual joint business relationship, as prescribed by clauses (m) and (n) of the said lease, as indicated by UTC's Managing Director, Mr. D. K. Hampton, in correspondence to the Commission, and the fact that there are no records that a formal application had been made by the UTC to the Land Commission to assign its interests in the said plots to other investors, the Lands Commission has threatened to re-enter and take over the said plots.

Officials at the Lands Commission are tight-lipped over what they consider to be a "thorny issue."

Chronicle investigations attribute the Land Commission's hard stand on the strength of the Minister of Lands and Forestry, Prof. Kasim Kasanga's directive last year in Kumasi that "the Commission consult and receive the consent of traditional authorities before transactions are carried out on all Kumasi Part 1 lands, currently vested in the government, while the government consider divesting such lands on the request of the Asantehene."

Sources close to UTC say the company might go to court to contest its interest in the said plots, against existing contractual agreement and the law, if the Lands Commission goes ahead with re-entry of theplots.

Meanwhile, Chronicle is sniffing around for details of fresh negotiations proposed by the Lands Commission last Tuesday in order to soften its position on re-entry.

Source: Chronicle
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