Global Ports Holding has landed a 15-year deal to operate a cruise ship port in Havana, as it hopes to cash in on partially thawed relations between Cuba and the US.
London-listed GPH’s management contract will also see it work with Cuba’s authorities to help develop new cruise ship terminals in the port.
Havana’s port has two cruise ship terminals, but is expected to add another four. Last year it handled 328,000 passengers; this number is forecast to rise to 500,000 this year.
Mehmet Kutman, chairman of GPH, said the agreement was the first step in the company’s growth strategy for the Americas.
In 2014, the US President Barack Obama eased sanctions on Cuba, effectively opening up the country to the lucrative cruise market. However, relations have since become strained, with President Donald Trump rolling back his predecessor’s reforms, a change that effectively channeled US travellers to Cuba through operators such as cruise lines, curbing the ability of US citizens to travel independently.
The Caribbean is the largest cruise market in the world, with about 9.6m passengers travelling there last year, making up 35pc of the global market. It has grown at about 4.5pc a year since 2012.
The Havana agreement means GPH now has 15 ports. It is the company’s biggest deal since it floated in London last year at 740p. The float valued the business at £460m, with the proceeds from the listing earmarked to fund expansion.
Lord Peter Mandelson was named as one of the directors, with GPH saying his “international network” would help secure future port agreements.
However GPH's shares have fallen nearly a third since listing, with political unrest in Turkey, where it is based, hitting its value. GPH derives about half of its revenues from cruise passengers through landing fees and ancillary sales, and the remainder from cargo.
The shares were barely moved, down 0.6pc at 500p, in morning trade.