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September 12, 2014

Chinese Firm Joins Kauai Resort Plans

Hawaiian Paradise!  VITA’s newest project kicking off with Oahu’s Resort Group and Chinese leader Reignwood International in Kauai.

Chinese firm joins Kauai resort plans

The investment group will help finance an isle developer’s vision for a community at Princeville

By Kristen Consillio
Honolulu Star-Advertiser
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 12, 2014

Prominent Hawaii developer Jeff Stone has formed a partnership with a Chinese investment group to build out 1,100 acres of Kauai’s Princeville Resort in Hanalei.

The Resort Group, one of the state’s largest landowners of resort developments, sold the interests in 1,100 of its 8,200 acres at Princeville, including the golf course and surrounding parcels, to Reignwood International, founded by Thai-Chinese billionaire entrepreneur Chanchai Ruayrungruang.

The value of the partnership is $343 million -- $200 million from Reignwood and $143 million from The Resort Group, said Stone, also the developer of Ko Olina Resort, who is in London this week.

The Princeville lands and golf course on the island’s north shore have 60 employees, all of whom are not affected by the deal that will result in a low-density resort community scheduled to be unveiled early next year. The transition doesn’t include the 252-room St. Regis Princeville Resort or the grocery-anchored Princeville Center, mauka lands or Princeville Airport.

“It’s great to have investment in Hawaii. They are great strategic partners to bring to Hawaii,” Stone said of Reignwood, which has targeted recent investments in the alternative energy and health and wellness industries. “It’s all about building those kinds of relationships, bringing those kinds of companies to Hawaii. It’s part of a wave that I think Hawaii can catch where you have some economic diversity. Before, we had a lot of New York funds and banks buying our real estate. Today the most important thing looking forward is to find the right stewards … those type of investors who love our place.”

Reignwood essentially takes the place of Morgan Stanley as financier of the resort community. Stone, along with Morgan Stanley, acquired Princeville in 2005 from Japan’s largest beverage company Suntory for $200 million. Stone said he bought out Morgan Stanley’s interests in the property within the last year before finding “another strategic partner that could help me move the project forward.”

Stone became exited when speaking about Hong Kong-based Reignwood Group’s partnership with U.S. aerospace firm Lockheed Martin to build an ocean thermal energy conversion electricity-generating plant off China’s coast to power a green eco-resort. Lockheed won a U.S. Navy contract in 2009 to build a similar plant in Hawaii, but the cost-prohibitive project never came to fruition.

“They’re into ocean thermal technology,” Stone said. “They’re very sustainable,” though the partners have “no plans like that at this time” for Kauai. However, both groups have committed to building the state’s “greenest” golf resort project, which has received all the necessary zoning approvals to move forward, he said.

Ruayrungruang, with a net worth of $2 billion according to Forbes, founded the Reignwood Group in Thailand in 1984. In 30 years, the parent company of Reignwood International says it has grown into a multinational enterprise with diversified investments in key growth industries in Asia with offices in Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

“Hawaii’s culture has deep roots in Asian heritage as many of my good friends cherish the islands and have made them their preferred vacation destination or home,” Ruayrungruang said in a press release. “We’re excited to be part of the Kauai and Hawaii communities. The island’s natural beauty is spectacular, and its open countryside translates well to our vision of sustainable communities.”

Ni Songhua, Reignwood’s head of global investments and acquisitions, said in the release that the partnership underscores the investment firm’s long-term confidence in Hawaii.

“We’re committed to preserving Princeville’s regal heritage and cultural roots,” Songhua said. “We believe that Reignwood’s profound respect for Hawaiian history, along with our green vision for the future, will help to advance the long-term plans of Mr. Stone.”

The 9,000-acre resort, once the site of sugar plantations and cattle ranches, became Hawaii’s first and largest master-planned community in the 1960s. Today, Princeville has 2,500 workers and generates $1 billion in economic impact for the state.

The Resort Group has invested more than $500 million in capital and created more than 2,000 construction jobs on Kauai, Stone said.

“We share a vision of bringing a sustainable community to this incomparable site,” he said.

“Kauai is probably more Chinese than anything,” Stone added, citing longtime investments by Chinese including Ching Young Village, one of the state’s oldest shopping centers, in Hanalei. “There’s a great connection to China and Hawaii and (Ruayrungruang’s) a great partner. I think they’ll be good stewards.”


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