By Taneka Thompson
Nassau Guardian Senior Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Prime Minister Perry Christie said on Tuesday that a Wall Street credit ratings agency’s questioning of the Bahamas government’s intent to renationalize the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) is “unfair”.
On Monday Edward Al-Hussainy, assistant vice-president and analyst at Moody’s, told The Nassau Guardian that the agency had reached out to the government to find out how the Christie administration will pay for the proposed renationalization.
But Christie said that neither he nor Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis have spoken with Moody’s about its concerns.
“No representative of Moody’s has spoken to me,” Christie said when asked to respond to the comments at a press conference on Tuesday. “No representative of Moody’s has raised any questions to me about my declared intention in representing the government of The Bahamas to commence discussions with BTC with respect to acquiring the majority interests of shares of BTC for Bahamians.”
He said he found out about the Moody’s probe into the proposed buy-back of BTC when he read about it in the newspaper.
When asked how much it would cost the government to regain control of BTC, Christie said, “You can do the mathematics and find out if two percent will give us the majority interest, you can do the mathematics based on what they paid for it.”
He added: “They can’t come to me with a special value and so forth. That’s why we are going to have discussions. We are motivated by what we regard as the best interests of the Bahamian people.”
On Monday, Al-Hussainy said, “I have reached out to the government to get a sense if they are going to take an equity position to raise cash and perhaps take on additional debt, what their thought process is.”
He added that he is unsure if renationalizing BTC is in the public interest.
“To me it is not clear. As far as I can tell it [BTC] is quite profitable, it’s not in dire financial straits,” the analyst said.
In spite of the worries of Moody’s, the prime minister remains resolute and said he was elected on a platform to reacquire majority control of BTC.
“They voted for us and so my mandate is grounded in the will of the people of The Bahamas.”
Christie has appointed a negotiating team ahead of formal talks with CWC officials, which will be tasked with getting the majority stake of BTC back in the hands of the government. These discussions are expected to occur in mid-August.
Christie said his initial discussions with CWC executives have been “cordial” so far. He added that he has an open-door policy in regards to dealing with CWC.
“I just hope that the monies they are spending on public relations is not intended to be public relations to negatively impact my government, or to communicate things to me that they could communicate very easily by picking up the telephone or coming to see me. You don’t have to talk to me through the press,” he said, referring to CWC.
In May, Moody’s also voiced concerns about the government’s proposed mortgage relief plan, which the agency estimated could cost the public purse $250 million.
Christie said when he meets with Moody’s in the near future he will show them the government’s efforts to rebuild the economy and jumpstart economic growth in the Family Islands.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian