|BTC talks set for next month|
Guardian News Editor
Published: Aug 22, 2012
Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) and a government team of negotiators are expected to begin talks in late September as the Christie administration forges ahead with its plan to regain a majority interest in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), according to businessman Franklyn Wilson, one of the government’s negotiators.
Wilson told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that the team is focused on the task at hand and is taking its mandate from Prime Minister Perry Christie very seriously.
Asked whether the government risks damaging The Bahamas’ reputation internationally, Wilson assured that every effort will be made to safeguard that reputation.
“Our group will pursue the national interest of The Bahamas,” Wilson said. “It is not in the national interest of The Bahamas for The Bahamas’ reputation to be damaged through this process. We have to focus on what is in the national interest of The Bahamas.”
Christie recently revealed the appointment of the negotiating team in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
In addition to Wilson, the other members of the team are former Attorney General Sean McWeeney; attorney Rowena Bethel, who worked as a regulator in the Ministry of Finance, and former BTC CEO Leon Williams.
“We have met among ourselves and we’ve also met with the prime minister,” Wilson said yesterday.
“We have clarity as to what our mandate is. We have received indication from Cable and Wireless as to dates they would recommend for the group to meet, and we’ve indicated our preparedness to oblige in respect to dates.”
He explained that the late September date was favorable to the group, because it needs time to properly prepare for the negotiations.
“It’s necessary for us to do a lot of preparatory work to really understand the business, to really study the business, to understand the circumstances and to do a lot of research,” Wilson said.
“You don’t go into these types negotiations with just hot air. It’s very important for the country, all the relevant parties to understand that this is not a reckless initiative.
“It’s something that’s a part of public policy... That’s a very important principle, I think, for all to understand and we as a group intend not to be reckless. We’re going to be very prudent. We’re going to be very responsible.
“We recognize that there is a national interest involved but there are various aspects of that national interest. In other words, we wish to achieve the objective that has been publicly known.
“At the same time, we wish for the total international investment community to know that in The Bahamas business is done in a manner consistent with the way business is done, whether it’s in New York, London, Toronto, Zurich or wherever.”
CWC acquired 51 percent of BTC under the former government last year. The Progressive Liberal Party strongly opposed the deal and Christie vowed at the time to take back control of the company if his party was returned to power.
BTC’s CEO Geoff Houston recently reported that the Government of The Bahamas is earning nearly double the profits as a 49 percent owner of the company than it did when it owned 100 percent of the shares.
Asked why the Christie administration still intends to get back majority control if the government is now earning more profits, Wilson said, “We do not intent to negotiate in the media and we are very much aware of all the public relations that BTC and the parent company are undergoing and we will take due note of these things.
“We presume they’re intended for the consumption of the broad public, including ourselves and we will take due note of what they have to say. You can’t just go by press releases.”
In his recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, Prime Minister Christie said, “Cable and Wireless is now the owner of 51 percent of the shares of the company. I’m not proposing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to buy shares back from them.
“What I’m proposing to do is what I said I would do, [and that] is to discuss with them a process that would lead both sides into agreeing on a different formulation, where the Government of The Bahamas would be a majority shareholder.”