BTC talks hit snag
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Dec 19, 2012
Talks between a government team of negotiators and executives at Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) over the Christie administration’s plans to regain majority shares in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) are at an impasse, Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday.
The team suspended talks for the holiday season until early in the new year.
Christie said both sides have not budged from their position and if nothing changes when they meet again next year, his government would scrap the negotiations and decide what to do next.
“Cable and Wireless has given us the complete assurance that they had no intention of selling that Bahamian asset,” he said.
“I can understand why they wouldn’t sell it because it’s a profit center for them. The only concern I would evidence at this stage is that we have to reach a conclusion on our talks sooner rather than later.
“Whatever that conclusion is we have to [know] so that the government of The Bahamas can in fact review whatever options are available to the government with respect to moving forward.
“You reach a point in your discussions where you’re talking to each other and making no headway. So clearly I would have to thank early in the New Year the persons who agreed to represent The Bahamas in the talks and meet with them with a view to determining when they are discontinued.”
The prime minister said he expected negotiators to meet with BTC executives one or two more times in 2013.
“If the sides remain as fixed as they are now there will be no purpose for continuing,” he added.
When asked what the government’s next move would be on the BTC issue, he said, “I think I know, but it’s a question of what the options are to the government, not to Perry Christie.
“So as the minister who has been leading these negotiations, I would have to speak to my colleagues about our options and then indicate what those options are.”
CWC purchased 51 percent of the shares of BTC under the Ingraham administration last year April. Christie and his party were strongly against the deal and warned CWC that if they won the 2012 general election they would get back a majority stake in the company for Bahamians.
Meanwhile, the government is preparing for the liberalization of the cell phone market.
Last week, the prime minister revealed that the government is considering an application from regional mobile phone provider Digicel to offer broadband services locally.
Digicel representatives came to the country last week to speak with Christie about the company’s interest in the local market.
Yesterday, Christie said future talks with Digicel are high on his agenda. Still, he said he had to be convinced to allow another foreign operator into the telecommunications sector.
“Cable Bahamas represents itself as being 100 percent owned by Bahamians,” he said. “Digicel is a foreign company so they have a discussion to hold with me with respect to matters of that kind. That’s the most I can say to you.