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Morocco’s rail operator to sell Marrakech’s La Momounia hotel to cut debt

RABAT, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Morocco’s rail operator ONCF plans to sell the five-star La Mamounia hotel in Marrakech to other state institutions to help cut its $1 billion debt burden, its director general said on Wednesday.

It also plans to issue local bonds, renegotiate long-term loans and sell other non-strategic assets, Mohamed Rabii Khlie told a press conference, without giving more details.

La Mamounia is one of Morocco’s most prestigious hotels and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stayed there in 1943 during the Second World War. State-owned ONCF has a 60% stake in the hotel.

ONCF invested 49 billion dirhams ($5.1 billion) in 2010-2018 to expand the network with the launch a year ago of Africa’s fastest train, which halved the travelling time between the commercial and industrial hubs of Casablanca and Tangier.

Achieved at a total cost of 22.9 billion dirhams, the high-speed line transported 2.5 million people by October 2019, Khlie said. The link boosted mobility between Casablanca and Tangier and helped attract more industrial and tourism activity to northern Morocco, he said.

But critics perceive the project as symbolizing a two-speed Morocco, as vast regions in the south remain without a basic train service.

King Mohammed VI called in a speech earlier this month for a rail link between Marrakech and Agadir to be considered. (Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, editing by Angus McDowall and Susan Fenton)

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