Yep, That $500 M from China to Trump Project Looks Like a Pretty Big Deal

You probably saw the news yesterday that just days before President Trump tweeted that he was intent on saving that sanctions-busting Chinese telecommunications company, China had agreed to loan $500 million to a major Trump-backed development in Indonesia. These kinds of situations are now basically commonplace in the Trump Era. But it is important to look at them from a macro- and a micro-perspective. The details are quite complex in the latter case. We are still digging into them. But I wanted to give you a first sense of what we’re finding, because they make Trump’s connection to the operation and potential profits look considerably tighter than what I’d been led to expect yesterday from early reports.

First some basic details. The mega project is something called the Lido City development about an hour outside of Jakarta. It’s like a mini-luxury city set on 3,000 hectares, which is just over 7,400 acres. Trump has a hotel there and a golf course and various other facilities. There’s also an amusement park planned on the grounds. That’s going to be built by a subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned company called Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC). They appear to be essentially bringing with them $500 million in Chinese-government backed loans for the development of the amusement park. Makes sense: they’re both parts of the Chinese government. That’s the commitment that came just before Trump’s tweet and which has gotten all the attention.

Now, the question I had was “is this just one more component of a huge development that Trump also just has one part of?” The answer seems pretty clearly to be no. The overall project has two backers: MNC corporation of Indonesia (huge diversified mega corp) and the Trump Organization (family company of American strongman). A corporate financial/promotional document for MNC says the company “is currently developing the MNC Lido City project; both theme park and smart city — in partnership with The Trump Hotel Collection (emphasis added)”

So MNC actually says that it and Trump Org. are developing the theme park jointly. That sounds pretty tight. They actually refer to the whole project as a “Trump Community.” In other documents, they refer to the Trump Organization having licensing and management contracts for facilities in Lido City beyond the Trump buildings and residences.

To be clear, these are phrases. We don’t know what the underlying contractual connections are or what the value of these various relationships and management contracts are. If experience is any guide, Trump tends to keep his investments limited and relies on the Trump brand to leverage upsides and revenues from management and licensing. But the press references to this project being “connected to” Trump seem to significantly understate the relationship.

More to come.

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