|BTC expected to take center stage at coming Moody’s meeting|
Royston Jones Jr.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Aug 18, 2012
The government will get an opportunity to discuss its plan to regain majority control of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) with Wall Street credit ratings agency Moody’s during a meeting in Nassau in October.
Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis confirmed the meeting yesterday.
Moody’s recently gave The Bahamas and BTC parent company, Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC,) a double credit negative assesment.
In its report, Moody’s called the government’s proposed buyout negotiations an “erratic approach” to its participation in the telecom sector and said the purchase penalty fees and potential litigation costs would place the country’s economy in jeopardy at a time when its finances are deteriorating.
Shortly after the report was released, Halkitis called the damning assessment an “uniformed” opinion, and said the government was concerned that the “opinions being expressed are not informed by facts”.
“We just think that the process was flawed and we want to be able to put the cards on the table so to speak,” he said.
Halkitis said the analyst who wrote the report recently joined Moody’s and had not previously covered The Bahamas.
The government arranged a teleconference with the author of the report to discuss its policies. That meeting took place last Friday.
“The conversation was just to introduce myself as the new minister of state,” Halkitis told The Nassau Guardian.
“I wanted to open lines of communication and let him know that if he had any questions about our policies he can contact us directly.”
Asked whether the government relayed any of the facts surrounding its takeover plan during that meeting, Halkitis responded, “We did not get into great detail on any subject...I told him I looked forward to sharing details on the government’s policies in detail when they make their visit.”
CWC purchased a 51 percent stake in BTC in a deal approved by the Ingraham administration in April 2011.
The credit ratings agency admitted its observation from analysts were from a “bird’s eye perspective”, but said it still considered the government’s plan in this case damaging to foreign investment.
Halkitis said the government also expects representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to travel to The Bahamas in October to conduct consultations as they do every year.
Despite the scathing criticisms from Moody’s, Opposition members and some local business leaders, the government has affirmed its commitment to regain majority ownership in BTC.
Last month, CEO of BTC Geoff Houston said the government is already receiving almost double the revenue from its current 49 percent ownership than it did prior to the sale when it was a full owner.