Saipan resort purchased by equity group for $63 million

Pactum Private Equity has purchased the Saipan World Resort from Hanwha Hotels & Resorts Co. for 90 billion won ($63 million) “as part of [Hanwha’s] restructuring efforts to dispose [of] unessential assets,” according to Pulse News.

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce confirmed the sale.

According to Journal files, Hanwha first began seeking a buyer in 2019.

The beachfront resort in Susupe has 259 guestrooms, a water park, an event facility, two restaurants and a gift shop. The property underwent renovations in 2019.  

Hanwha purchased the resort in 2009 for $25.4 million; the property was valued at $110.3 million in 2019, according to Journal files.  

Pactum PE plans to enhance its travel packages and family-oriented programs, and to raise the occupancy rate of Saipan World Resort to its pre-pandemic level of more than 100%, according to Pulse News.

Shi-Hwan “Brad” Kim is the new CEO and president of Saipan World Resort effective Oct. 14, according to the chamber. He can be reached at the hotel at (670) 234-5900.

In related news, according to the Marianas Visitors Authority arrivals to Saipan, Tinian and Rota grew 646% to 8,256 visitors in September, compared to 1,107 visitors received in September 2021.

While the September figure is 646% up compared to a year earlier, the three NMI islands saw 37,022 visitors in September 2019, compared to the 8,256 in September this year.


More utility payments possible for NMI; Torres confident in new airline

Residents in the Northern Mariana Islands may get another round of Commonwealth Utility Corp. credits.

Speaking on the KKMP radio station news conference on Oct. 21, David DLG Atalig, secretary of the NMI Department of Finance, told the Journal, “The proposal is with the governor.” A decision could be announced in the week of Oct. 24, Atalig said.

As to whether the amounts of $300 a month for three months would mirror the $300 monthly vouchers distributed for August, September and October, Atlig said of the proposal that went to Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres, “We gave him the scenarios of what we can afford.”

The previous vouchers were funded through the American Rescue Plan Act’s Household Assistance.

Atalig also updated the paper on the $12 million BOOST program – officially termed the Building Optimism, Opportunities, and Stability Together program – which is designed to assist small businesses and non-profits.

“A little bit more than 500 applications have come in,” he said. “It’s overwhelming,” Atalig said. The deadline for applications is Nov. 18.

As the award money goes out, Atalig said, “We are excited to see these new businesses and see businesses expand.”

He said the Marianas Alliance of Non-Government Organizations or MANGO is helping non-profits to be recognized as such outside of the NMI system. “We are pushing all the non-profits to be recognized by the [Internal Revenue Service] as 501(c)3s,” Atalig said.

He said he anticipated that ARPA funding would be exhausted by the end of fiscal 2023. “We understand we have up to December 2024.”

There are other significant streams of funding flowing into the NMI, such as President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“The Bipartisan law infuses $100 million,” into the NMI Atalig said. “But the opportunity in that bill is to see more funding. … We’ve got a lot of projects that are shovel ready. We just need to get the funding for them.” As to broadband grants for the NMI, he said. “We have about $36 million … we’re seeking another $40 to $50 million.” In addition, he said it added to the attraction of the NMI as a place to do business. “We are making sure our islands are up to par.”

Torres said he has no doubt that the Northern Mariana Airways will be successful (See accompanying story in this News Flash). “I am very confident because of the partnership [Keith Stewart] has with everyone in the industry.” He also said that the partners of the airline “know their market.” In addition, he said, “We’re here to help with the Australian market.”

As to the vacant managing directorship of the Marianas Visitors Authority, Torres said he is looking at potential replacements after the resignation of Priscilla M. Iakopo, effective Nov. 3. “I’ve been communicating with the board,” he said. Victoria I. Benavente, secretary of the NMI Department of Labor and a former managing director of MVA will help the agency in the meantime.

DFS plans an initiative to launch entertainment and performances, as well as historic and cultural displays at its Garapan T Galleria with funding of $68,500. “I want to thank DFS – especially for adding additional attractions for our tourists,” Torres said.

As to incentives for airlines to come to the NMI, the governor said, “We are looking at every angle.” Torres said an investment in tourism had wide relevance. “Everyone will benefit here in the NMI.”

As to the loss of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s revenue of more than $25 million it has not paid to the Commonwealth Casino Commission and suspension of its license, Torres said economic circumstances had created “a perfect storm” with the loss of its Chinese market and more.

With the status of the casino in the court system, Torres said he was not privy to details. “At the end of the day, we know it’s not moving,” he said.


International airline conference to focus on customer satisfaction

The International Air Transport Association’s annual conference from Nov. 1 to 3 in Bahrein will focus on customer satisfaction, according to an Oct. 18 release.

Session topics include overcoming baggage challenges for a better customer experience, airport accessibility and inclusive design, disability and accessibility research and how are airlines adopting to the change of customer centricity and true retailing.

IATA represents some 290 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic. 


Grants update

The Office of the Governor has confirmed a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.

As reported in the Journal of May 2, the $8.2 million grant will fund construction of above-ground crypts, grading, drainage, irrigation, landscaping, and supporting infrastructure at the Guam Veterans Cemetery. Work will begin in January 2023.

The grant is more than the $7 million originally expected. P. Tim Aguon, director of veterans affairs for the Government of Guam, told the Journal in May that Guam will be awarded grant funding for both the Guam Veterans Cemetery in Piti and the U.S. Naval Cemetery in East Hagatna.

The Port of Guam will receive $564,218 from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency 2022 Port Security Grant Program “to ensure supply chain resiliency within Guam and the Mariana Islands,” according to an Oct. 21 release from U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. An earlier release on the grant program regionally did not clarify the amount for Guam.


Guam port rating maintained; revenue concentration noted

S&P Global Ratings maintains its outlook for the Port Authority of Guam at stable and affirmed its ‘A’ long-term rating on the agency’s outstanding series 2018 Port Revenue Bonds.

“We consider the authority’s management and governance strong, reflecting our view of the port’s strategic positioning, risk and financial management, and organizational effectiveness,” the ratings report released Oct. 20 by Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings said. “The authority has historically operated in a fiscally prudent manner, implementing tariff increases as needed, building and maintaining cash reserves, and minimally relying on debt issuance to meet capital needs.”

While it said the port is a critical component of the economy, processing approximately 90% of Guam’s total volume of goods supplies, S&P also noted “a very concentrated 46% of operating revenues and 56% of cargo (fiscal 2021) are attributed to one carrier – Matson Inc. – with 30% of the total volume military-related. The leading three carriers serving the port accounted for 89% of total cargo in fiscal 2021, and the leading 10 carriers or tenants accounted for 98% of fiscal 2021 revenues, including 69% by the top two carriers, Matson and APL. The port has been experiencing generally favorable volume, which we expect to continue given macroeconomic trends in Guam, including the expected military buildup,” S&P said.


Latest health inspections at educational facilities

The Guam Department of Health & Social Services Division of Environmental Health inspected eight facilities between Oct. 10 and 16.

Inspections included two schools, four childcare centers, and two stores offering water, one of which – Nature Spring in Dededo – saw its sanitary permit reinstated. No violations were observed at two of the childcare centers; the other two and the two schools saw comments.


Guam COVID-19 update

The seven-day rolling average of positive cases continues to be below 10 a day, the island-wide, daily COVID-19 hospitalized count has recently increased, but remains below the surge indicator of 20 per day. The ICU count has not gone above the surge threshold of five per day and there have not been any recent COVID-19 related deaths, according to an Oct. 20 release from the Guam Department of Health & Social Services Office of Epidemiology and Research and COVID-19 Surveillance Unit. All age groups show decreases and convergence, except for the two spikes among the 60-74 age group and 75+ in October.


Government facilities update

The Guam Department of Administration in the ITC building will be temporarily closed from Oct. 20, due to an issue with air conditioning.

Guam Economic Development Authority phone lines are down due to technical issues, as of Oct. 20.

The Commonwealth Zoning Board’s Zoning Office will be closed from Oct. 24 to Oct. 28 and will resume service on Oct. 31 at its new location at the CLL Plaza in Chalan Lau Lau in Saipan.


And also:

In accordance with 11 GCA Chapter 53, the Department of Administration has completed the process for establishing the Guam Able Savings Program. The program allows “eligible individuals to create tax-exempt savings accounts for qualified disability expenses,” according to an Oct. 18 release from the Office of the Governor. Contributions to these accounts can be made with pre-tax earnings and be deducted from taxable income. Interested individuals should consult a professional tax advisor for full details. 

ASC Trust has been selected as the plan administrator. Application forms are available at the ASC Trust office or via its website at For more information, contact ASC Trust at (671) 477-2724.

The Guam National Guard will sign Oct. 22 an MOU with Guam Community College’s Continuing Education and Workforce Development to establish a General Education Plus program for applicants to earn a high school equivalency diploma and join the Guam Guard. The partnership also offers Guard service members opportunities for additional training, according to an Oct. 20 release.


Retail alert: Docomo Pacific has the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max in stores. Visit for details. 


For your diary:

Oct. 27 – American Cancer Society in Guam’s Real Men Wear Pink Man Cave event, 5.30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Hyatt Regency Guam.

The event features a three-banquet room layout. Each banquet room has its own unique theme. There will be food, drinks, a no-host bar, live music, live performers, and a silent auction. Tickets are $80. For purchases, contact Ed Lee (671) 682-0125/ the American Cancer Society at (671) 477-9451/GuamTime (service charges added).

Oct. 31 – The State of the Commonwealth Address by Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres has been rescheduled from Oct. 21 to Oct. 31 at 10 a.m. at the Kensington Hotel Saipan. The address is due to be livestreamed on the NMI Office of the Governor Facebook page, in partnership with Northern Marianas College. mbj