By Candia Dames
Nassau Guardian News Editor
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) and the government of The Bahamas have concluded a deal that will result in the government taking majority control of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), The Nassau Guardian has confirmed.
CWC said in a statement on Tuesday night, “Cable & Wireless Communications notes today's press speculation in The Bahamas and confirms it has come to an agreement with the government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the details of which will be disclosed at a press conference at 5 p.m. Bahamian time tomorrow (Wednesday), to be attended by the prime minister of The Bahamas and the CEO of Cable & Wireless Communications (Phil Bentley).”
The Guardian understands that the deal calls for the government to reacquire two percent of the company in what is being termed “a very substantive transaction”.
The terms of the deal have been outlined in a memorandum of understanding, but additional provisions are expected to be announced at today’s press conference.
CWC officials are expected to fly in for the signing.
Reportedly, under the deal the government would not have to transfer any money to Cable & Wireless.
CWC will retain management control of the company, which was privatized in 2011 when the Ingraham administration sold 51 percent of the shares.
In opposition, Perry Christie and the Progressive Liberal Party had strongly opposed the deal and Christie had warned Cable & Wireless that upon coming to office he would seek to reacquire majority control for the Bahamian people.
Christie said on Friday, “I think the country will have a very interesting set of propositions that will be put to them.
“And to those people who told me don’t waste my time, they will have, I think, a surprising outcome to this whole affair.”
Christie has been anxious to prove his critics wrong on the BTC deal.
Last month, opposition leader Dr Hubert Minnis urged the prime minister to abandon his bid to regain majority interest in BTC.
“The two percent, Christie might as well just abandon that,” Minnis said.
“He knew he could not do it from [inception] and he’s now taking it to Cabinet so that he can say it’s a Cabinet decision to abandon the process when he knew it could not have been done initially.”
In 2012, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said there are many things his administration did while in office that cannot be changed by a new government.
“The reality is that many of the things we did in office are irreversible,” he said.
“Never mind talk; the reality is they remain the reality for The Bahamas, notwithstanding any noise you hear to the contrary.”
He was speaking in the context of Christie’s bid to regain majority interest in BTC.
Cabinet met and signed off on the deal on Tuesday.
Last month, Minnis also urged the government to offer shares in BTC, which was the Ingraham administration’s plan.
“That is what a responsible leader would do if you’re talking about believing in Bahamians. Don’t continue to pontificate [about] matters that you know would not materialize,” he said.
In a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, Christie said the government is minded to eventually offer shares in BTC, which is being prepared to operate in a liberalized environment.
Christie also said it was never his intention for the government to have managerial control of BTC.
“The reason why I have put the airport under management is because I accept the efficiencies that private managers bring, and so I want Bahamasair, I want BEC, I want the water corporation, I want to be able to infuse private management into some of these because we’re losing money and I want to be able to broaden ownership and the risk and the responsibility,” he said.
“So no. From my purposes, that was never an issue when we were talking about owning 51 percent and intending to sell in our first term. We always knew that it would be private management that would be the order of the day.”
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian