CWC owners of BTC tranfers 2% majority interest back to the people of the Bahamas

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Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Perry Christie

PRESS STATEMENT

BY

THE PRIME MINISTER & MINISTER OF FINANCE

THE RT. HON. PERRY G. CHRISTIE

JANUARY 22nd, 2014

TODAY WE MEET TO FORMALISE AN HISTORIC AGREEMENT UNDER WHICH THE MAJORITY ECONOMIC INTEREST IN BTC WILL ONCE AGAIN REST WITH THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE.

LET ME SAY RIGHT FROM THE OUTSET THAT THIS RE-GAINING OF THE MAJORITY ECONOMIC INTEREST IN BTC WILL NOT COST THE GOVERNMENT OR THE PEOPLE OF THE BAHAMAS ONE SINGLE CENT – NOT ONE! ON THE CONTRARY, THE GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN ABLE TO AMICABLY SECURE THE RETURN OF THE MAJORITY ECONOMIC INTEREST IN BTC WITHOUT HAVING TO PAY ANYTHING FOR IT, AND I SHOULD ADD, WITHOUT HAVING TO MAKE ANY DEALS TO GET IT DONE EITHER!

IN PARTICULAR, THERE WILL BE NO EXTENSION OF BTC’S MONOPOLY AND NO POSTPONEMENT OF THE LIBERALIZATION OF THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SECTOR.

LET US BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT THIS THEN. WE HAVE NOT PAID, AND WILL NOT HAVE TO PAY, FOR THE RE-ACQUIRED SHARES IN ANY FORM OR FASHION.

SO, IN FINANCIAL TERMS, THIS IS A WIN-WIN FOR THE GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE OF THE BAHAMAS.

I SAY WHAT I HAVE JUST SAID UP-FRONT SO THAT ALL THE NAYSAYERS OUT THERE WHO WERE SAYING THAT WE WERE WASTING OUR TIME, AND THAT WE WERE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY HUGE SUMS AND/OR CRIPPLING PENALTIES … WELL… WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO SAY NOW?  THEY HAVE ALL BEEN PROVED WRONG, DEAD WRONG!

TO PUT TODAY’S AGREEMENT IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE, IT WILL BE RECALLED THAT UP UNTIL 2011, BTC WAS 100% OWNED BY THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE. IN 2011, HOWEVER, THE THEN GOVERNMENT SOLD A 51% MAJORITY INTEREST IN BTC TO CABLE AND WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS (CWC), THE UNITED KINGDOM-BASED MULTI-NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS CONGLOMERATE.

I AM HAPPY TO CONFIRM TODAY, HOWEVER, THAT FOLLOWING MANY MONTHS OF DISCUSSION WITH CWC, WE HAVE ARRIVED AT AN AGREEMENT WHICH WILL, AS I HAVE SAID, RETURN THE MAJORITY ECONOMIC INTEREST IN BTC TO THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE AND ON TERMS THAT WILL NOT COST THE BAHAMIAN TAXPAYER ANYTHING.

I SHOULD LIKE TO TAKE PUBLIC NOTE OF THE FACT THAT THE DISCUSSIONS THAT HAVE NOW CULMINATED IN THIS HISTORIC AGREEMENT WERE CARRIED OUT WITH THE UTMOST CORDIALITY AND ON A COMPLETELY VOLUNTARY BASIS, WITHOUT THREAT OR COMPULSION ON EITHER SIDE.

I WISH TO EXPRESS THANKS AND APPRECIATION TO THE PRINCIPALS OF CWC WHO CO-OPERATED FULLY WITH THE GOVERNMENT AND ITS NEGOTIATORS TO ENSURE THAT THE OUTCOME THAT WAS ARRIVED AT WOULD FAIRLY REFLECT MUTUALITY AND THE COMMON DESIRE OF BOTH CWC AND THE GOVERNMENT.  FOR THIS, I WISH TO GIVE SPECIAL THANKS TO THE FORMER CEO OF CWC, MR. TONY RICE, AND THE CURRENT CEO OF CWC, MR. PHIL BENTLEY, WITH EACH OF WHOM I HAVE DEVELOPED A RAPPORT AND UNDERSTANDING THAT AUGURS WELL, I BELIEVE, FOR FUTURE MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL RELATIONS BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT AND CWC.  INDEED I LOOK FORWARD TO HOLDING REGULARLY SCHEDULED MEETINGS WITH MR. BENTLEY SO AS TO ENSURE THAT THE RELATIONS BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT AND CWC AS PARTNERS IN BTC CAN BE OPTIMIZED.  I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTIONS OF MR. NICK COOPER AND MR. CHRIS DEHRING OF CWC.

ON THE GOVERNMENT’S SIDE, WE EXTEND OUR COMMENDATION AND THANKS TO OUR OWN NEGOTIATING TEAM HEADED BY MR. FRANKLYN WILSON CMG, MR. SEAN MCWEENEY QC, MRS. ROWENA BETHEL, AND MR. LEON WILLIAMS.  THEY HAVE DONE AN OUTSTANDING JOB AND, I SHOULD ADD, THAT THEY HAVE DONE SO WITHOUT REMUNERATION OR ANY OTHER COST TO THE GOVERNMENT.  WE ARE VERY GRATEFUL TO THEM FOR THEIR SUPERB EFFORTS AND SACRIFICES.

TURNING NOW, IF I MAY, TO THE AGREEMENT, IT WILL SPECIFICALLY RESULT IN THE TRANSFER BY CWC OF 5,093,200 OF ITS SHARES IN BTC BACK TO THE GOVERNMENT FOR PLACEMENT IN A FOUNDATION THAT WILL HOLD THESE SHARES IN TRUST FOR THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE.  IN ADDITION TO THESE SHARES, WHICH REPRESENT JUST UNDER 2% OF THE TOTAL ISSUED SHARE EQUITY IN BTC, THE NEW FOUNDATION WILL ALSO HOLD ALL OF THE DIVIDENDS AND OTHER INCOME AND ALL OTHER ECONOMIC BENEFITS THAT WILL ACCRUE FROM OWNERSHIP OF THE SHARES.  WE CONFIDENTLY EXPECT THAT ANNUAL DIVIDENDS FROM THE RE-ACQUIRED SHARES WILL BE IN THE LOW SEVEN FIGURES RANGE BASED ON HISTORICAL PERFORMANCE.

IT IS OF PARTICULAR IMPORTANCE TO NOTE THAT THE INCOME FROM THE RE-ACQUIRED SHARES WILL NOT BE GOING INTO THE CONSOLIDATED FUND BUT INSTEAD WILL BE HELD SEPARATE AND APART BY THE FOUNDATION SO AS TO ENSURE THAT THE MONEY WILL BE USED ONLY FOR PERMITTED PURPOSES, NAMELY :

TO IMPROVE AND EXPAND THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE’S ACCESS TO, AND ENJOYMENT OF, TELECOMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY THROUGHOUT THE BAHAMAS;
TO ASSIST IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF ATHLETICS AND OTHER SPORTING, RECREATIONAL AND CIVIC ACTIVITIES IN THE BAHAMAS; AND
TO ASSIST IN THE WAR AGAINST CRIME BY EXPANDING THE USE OF CCTV AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY AS TOOLS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT.
NOW, LET ME BE AS CANDID AS I CAN ON ONE POINT: ALTHOUGH THE SHARES THAT ARE BEING RE-ACQUIRED TO BE HELD UPON TRUST FOR THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE WILL CARRY THE ENTITLEMENT TO ALL OF THE ECONOMIC RIGHTS, THEY WILL BE NON-VOTING SHARES.  THIS MEANS THAT THE TRANSFER OF THE SHARES WILL NOT INVOLVE ANY CHANGE IN THE EXISTING ARRANGEMENTS UNDER WHICH EXECUTIVE CONTROL AND MANAGEMENT WILL CONTINUE TO REST WITH CWC.

AT THE SAME TIME, LET US BE EQUALLY AS CLEAR ON WHAT THIS NEW AGREEMENT DOES DO : IT RETURNS APPOXIMATELY 51% OF THE ECONOMIC OWNERSHIP IN BTC TO THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE WHEREAS UNDER THE ARRANGEMENT NEGOTIATED BY THE FORMER GOVERNMENT THIS SAME 51% ECONOMIC OWNERSHIP RESTED WITH CWC.

IN ADDITION, UNDER THIS NEW PHASE IN THE CWC PARTNERSHIP WITH THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE, THERE WILL BE GREATER COLLABORATION WITH THE BAHAMAS BROADCASTING CORPORATION (BCB) WITH A VIEW TO ASSISTING IN THE INTEGRATION OF TECHNOLOGIES AND OTHER COLLABORATIVE STRATEGIES AIMED AT ENHANCING THE PERFORMANCE OF BCB. INDEED, I AM ADVISED BY THAT SUCH COLLABORATION IS WELL UNDERWAY ALREADY.

I WOULD WISH TO CONCLUDE BY EXPRESSING MY GOVERNMENT’S SATISFACTION WITH HAVING ACHIEVED WHAT WE HONESTLY CONSIDER TO BE THE BEST OBTAINABLE DEAL FOR THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES, ONE THAT HAS NOT COST US  ANYTHING, AND ONE THAT HAS RESULTED IN THE RESTORATION OF MAJORITY OWNERSHIP TO THE BAHAMIAN PEOPLE ON TERMS THAT WILL PROVIDE A NEW SOURCE OF FUNDING TO ASSIST IN IMPROVING ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY, IMPROVING FUNDING FOR SPORTS AND CIVIC ACTIVITIES, AND IMPROVING FUNDING FOR THE USE OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY IN THE WAR AGAINST CRIME.