CPHCL and its business plan – Interview with Jean-Pierre Schembri, CEO (CPHCL)

 

Shortly after I heard that CPHCL had formulated a new 5-year plan, I contacted its CEO, Jean-Pierre Schembri, for a short chat on the subject. I managed to fix an appointment first thing in the morning. Well, it was not the first thing for him since it is known that he’s up at 5 am.

Jean-Pierre Schembri

Up to his recent appointment as CEO of CPHCL in February 2024, Jean-Pierre was Senior Executive and Company Secretary of International Hotel Investments plc (IHI), a post he held since 2018 and which he naturally had to relinquish.

He graduated from the University of Malta and holds a Masters in European Politics and Administration from the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. After occupying senior positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Prime Minister in Malta, he served at the Permanent Representation of Malta to the EU in Brussels, where he also occupied the post of Chef de Cabinet. He subsequently joined the European Union Civil Service where he held the senior management role of Head of Communications and Stakeholders at the European Asylum Support Office. 

I asked Jean-Pierre to say a few words of introduction on CPHCL, which he did in his usual soft-spoken manner: CPHCL was incorporated on 21 June 1966, originally named Corinthia Palace Hotel Company Limited, but now formally changed to CPHCL once it sold its rights to the Corinthia name to IHI plc, one of the companies in which CPHCL is a majority  investor. As Malta evolved from a colony under British rule into an independent nation, the Company was among the first players in Malta’s fledging tourism industry. Over the years, the Company has expanded to encompass ownership, development and operation of hotels in Malta, Europe, Africa and beyond. The Company has also expanded into other areas ancillary to the hospitality and real estate industry.”

Jean-Pierre presented me with a list of CPHCL’s present main operating investments:

–        58% shareholding in International Hotel Investments p.l.c. (IHI) 

–        50% shareholding in Mediterranean Investments Holding p.l.c. (MIH)

–        100% shareholding in RQT, Swan Laundry, and MFCC

–        65% shareholding in the Danish Bakery

–        100% ownership of the Aquincum Hotel in Budapest and the Ramada Plaza in Tunis

–        42% ownership of the Santarem Hotel in Portugal.

But for completion sake, Jean-Pierre added: “The Company also owns several properties in Malta (MFCC); Turkey (Gulluk Hotel); Libya (land in Benghasir and Misurata); Czech Republic (Hotel Bator, Hotel Anna with nearby apartments and lands in Kyselov and Konopiste); Budapest (Aquincum Hotel) and Tunis (Ramada Plaza).”

Focusing on the main topic of our chat, I asked Jean-Pierre to briefly share the salient points of CPHCL’s newly approved 5-year business plan.

Traditionally, CPHCL has acted as a holding company. Currently, its profits are generated from management fees; returns from IHI and MIH; returns from its activities, namely Swan Laundry, Danish Bakery, Recruitment and Quality Talent Ltd (RQT) and MFCC; dividends from the its owned operational hotels (Aquincum, Ramada Plaza and, in part, Santarem); and one-off profits generated from the sale of properties and businesses.

In 2023, the Company decided to expand its footprint and seek growth in its own right. This will require a shift in its business operation. Its short-term goal is to sell its non-core assets, generate sufficient funds to grow new businesses, and venture into activities to generate new profit streams and ensure long-term sustainability.”

Jean-Pierre emphasised that “this new business plan ensures that CPHCL does not compete with International Hotel Investments p.l.c. (IHI) and Mediterranean Investments Holding p.l.c. (MIH). While IHI is focused on hospitality, luxury hotels and real estate, CPHCL’s new business plan proposes to examine a wider range of business ventures in other or ancillary sectors.”

He further explained that the plan, which projects up to 2028, deals with growth in the following areas:

A.   Industrial Business, which includes Danish Bakery, Swan Laundry, MFCC and RQT (Quality Talent Ltd);

B.    Real estate development of its properties, alone or in partnership. CPHCL has reviewed its real estate in Malta and abroad and will examine different possibilities and alternatives for sale and or development, including possible third-party participation. Some target dates have been fixed, depending, in some cases, on more favourable economic or political conditions in certain countries.

 C. Investing in developing other real estate projects in Malta, including commercial and residential real estate for sale. As to residential real estate, CPHCL will not be the usual speculator, but it will focus on quality homes in UCA areas, unconverted farmhouses and villas. The business model will consist of purchasing plots or derelict buildings, converting and/or developing them, and selling them.  

D. Returns, including dividends from IHI and Mediterranean Investments Holding p.l.c.  (MIH).

E. Investments in Libya. Traditionally, CPHCL has been involved in extensive catering operations in Libya.  In the future, it will look into the possibility of expanding its business operations there. It will explore several options for business growth in Libya.

Naturally, some senior management posts would need to be created to manage and service new ventures,” Jean-Pierre concluded.

So, now that the plan is established, the rest is its realisation.