Business

Rudy King tied to controversial CWI group

August 14, 2014

An entity which has been criticized for claiming to have non-profit status and raising funds for HIV/AIDS and cancer causes when it did not, in fact, have this status, is tied to the controversial Rudy King, Guardian Business can confirm.Following investigations by this newspaper, King, who has been indicted in the U.S. twice on fraud charges, confirmed to Guardian Business that his organization, The King Global Humanitarian Foundation (TKGHF) is the "parent" of Celebrating Women International (CWI).CWI has been soliciting women across The Bahamas to receive awards for their contributions to society from the organization. It has stated in publicly-issued materials that it will donate "part proceeds" from funds raised to HIV/AIDS and cancer. The group was able to obtain a proclamation from the prime minister describing October as "Women of Excellence" month to coincide with their awards ceremony and to book Government House, the home of the Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, as the site for the awards ceremony. King said: "CWI is a subsidiary. It would fall under the umbrella of The King Global Humanitarian Foundation. I don't understand the concerns."Last week, Guardian Business reported that CWI had come under fire for describing itself in publicly-issued materials as a non-profit organization when the Registrar General's Department had no record of any registration of CWI as a non-profit.Camille Barnett, president of the AIDS Foundation, said it is "unfortunate" that CWI had chosen to do so, adding: "It is sad because it gives other organizations a bad reputation, so we all get tarnished with the same brush".The day that Guardian Business reported that CWI does not have non-profit status, the group - which describes itself as a "group of women's advocates" but has been unwilling to identify the names of these advocates - insisted it was legitimate. It forwarded a letter of incorporation as a limited liability company dated the same day in support of this contention and clarified that it is a private company, rather than a non-profit. The company's website continues to describe it as the latter, however.Several women who have been asked to be honorees have expressed concern over the legitimacy of the organization. King and his organization have previously drawn international confusion and consternation for giving an award for "contributions to human kind" to then prime minister of Swaziland, Barnabas Dlamini. Dlamini's regime had been criticized for its poor human rights record, including comments in the Swazi media that anti-government protesters should be tortured.King told Guardian Business he is not involved in the day-to-day operations of CWI, but defended the group.King is no stranger to controversy. In 2007 he was indicted on charges of filing a false claim to the Internal Revenue Service of the U.S. According to the indictment, King presented a claim to the IRS for refund of taxes in the amount of $2,700,000 knowing it to be false. The IRS said King did so under the alias Klever Rosales in the state of California.In 2010, King was criticized for presenting Swaziland's Dlamini with a "World Citizen Award". At the time, the Associated Press reported that the World Citizen Award website also included a listed of trustees that a respected peace group said was used without its permission.Richard C. Allen, a lawyer for the World Peace Foundation, said in an email to the Associated Press that the trustees list on the World Citizen Award site was "lifted without authorization from the web site of my client, the World Peace Foundation, a well-respected NGO in the U.S. Neither the World Peace Foundation nor its board members are connected with the 'World Citizen Award'."In 2011, Antigua and Barbuda opposition leader Lester Bird came under fire in that country for accepting what was dubbed a "dubious" award from King. Bird was honored for his "pre-eminent role in shaping the global community and for his continued influence on the world stage".In May 2013, King was declared bankrupt by a Bahamian judge over an unpaid debt to Cavalier Construction amounting to $1 million. Meanwhile, in May 2014, The Nassau Guardian reported that King had been hit with a 23-count indictment in the U.S. charging him with mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in a scheme to defraud. According to the indictment, King created fictitious corporations that he then used to create merchant accounts with credit card processors. "Rudolph Kermit King would inflate the amount of funds within the merchant account by charging unauthorized devices," said a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida."These funds would then be deposited to a small business checking account under King's control, from which he withdrew funds. Finally King, used unauthorized access devices to purchase goods and services to fund his lifestyle," it added.If convicted, King could face a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution, and a consecutive two years in prison for each country of aggravated identity theft.Contacted about the indictment by The Nassau Guardian, King said he was "very surprised" to learn of it. He denied that he was involved in fraud.

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Atlantis considers 'competitive' water park access restriction

August 14, 2014

Atlantis is considering restricting which types of hotel guests can access its water park facilities, in a move which would see Baha Mar guests among those who cannot partake of the attraction, the resort's president and managing director has confirmed.Faced with a more challenging environment, George Markantonis said that, if implemented, the "competitive measure" would come into effect in mid-December.Markantonis commented after Wall Street credit rating agency Standard & Poor's noted in a report on a commercial mortgage-backed securities deal connected to the refinancing of Atlantis that the resort management had told the agency that "guests staying at the new Baha Mar development will not be permitted to utilize the (Atlantis) water park, which may discourage guests from staying at the new development". S&P said it foresees Atlantis facing "significant competition" from Baha Mar.In an interview with Guardian Business, Markantonis stressed that the policy is not one Atlantis has yet decided upon.However, asked if it would be fair to say that consideration of this type of restriction on who can use the park is an indication that the company is becoming more aggressively competitive in its approach, he said: "That's very fair. And (it's) for obvious reasons."He said that if it goes ahead, the restriction would see access to the Aquaventure water park and aquarium facilities restricted to just Atlantis hotel guests, Ocean Club and Comfort Suites hotel guests, cruise ship passengers who have purchased on board excursions and "locals with relevant I.D."Placing S&P's comment into context, Markantonis added: "When asked about what we do to continue to strengthen the Atlantis brand and continue to keep up occupancies and rates we explained we look at all sorts of variations. "We are doing exceptionally well with the water park and also with sales to cruise ships excursions,
and we have also been considering closing access to the water park to all non-Atlantis hotel guests
with the exception of onboard purchased cruise ships excursions at some point in the future."It is not just going to apply to Baha Mar (guests); it would apply to every other hotel. And that's because it's built into our guests' room rate and we don't want to cannibalize the experience. We do want people to know what value they are getting for what they are getting," he said. S&P's report notes that water park attendance at Atlantis has increased significantly each year since the project was completed in 2007. The park received 829,000 guests in 2013 and generated $70 million of nine percent of revenue in 2013. This represents major growth from $49.7 million in 2010.Non-hotel guests to the water park, besides paying for access, also generated revenue for Atlantis' food and beverage outlets. The revelation of Atlantis' potential new approach to water park access comes just over a month after Atlantis announced a new partnership with Marriott which will see the resort become a part of Marriott's International's Autograph collection. The move is expected to boost Atlantis' occupancy given that it will see it able to tap into Marriott International's 45 million-strong loyalty program, in which guests can gain and spend points for vacation stays; through the program, Atlantis will become visible in Marriott International's booking system. Markantonis said that if it does restrict access to the water park, Atlantis will not be doing anything that has not been done by other major resorts."In Las Vegas you can't stay at the Bellagio and use the beach and pools at Mandalay Bay; those are for the exclusive privilege of staying at Mandalay Bay. The waterscapes of just about all the hotels in Las Vegas are exclusive," he added.

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Old Fort School demand 'phenomenal'

August 14, 2014

The director of a new school in western New Providence has claimed that demand for the school has exceeded expectations ahead of its September 1 opening, providing the possibility for future expansion. "The response has been phenomenal, it's exceeded our expectations by all means," said Director of the Old Fort School Lisa Sawyer-McCartney, believing that the school fills a void in western New Providence's school system, given a lack of available classroom spaces in the region. The school is situated on five acres of a 10-acre site that formerly belonged to the New Providence Development Company (NPDC). Sawyer-McCartney noted last year that the NPDC would hold the remaining five acres for any further expansion by the school. However, the likelihood of expansion has increased significantly over the past year, according to Sawyer-McCartney. "Given the response, we're a lot more confident that a phase two will happen in the near future," said Sawyer-McCartney, who also serves as the director of the Meridian School off of John F. Kennedy Drive."We're in the throes of finishing the construction. Our teachers are coming in on Monday, the 18th, in anticipation of a September 1st school start," said Sawyer-McCartney.Despite the imminent opening, Sawyer-McCartney could not specify the project's investment value, claiming that it continued to change on a daily basis. Although the Old Fort School originally planned on accommodating children from pre-kindergarten through ninth grade, it has already expanded through 10th grade due to demand from families.Sawyer-McCartney added that the school would phase in additional grades as it operates, and anticipates having its first graduating class by 2017. Each class will have "no more than 18 children, a teacher and an approved teacher's aide," said Sawyer-McCartney, who noted that 186 students had already enrolled in the Old Fort School, which currently employs 17 teachers. Construction of the school began in August 2013. Sawyer-McCartney added that the Old Fort School's teachers were currently undergoing training through their affiliation with Cambridge International Exams (CIE) as the school's curriculum provider.

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Central Bank sees 'mild' economic momentum but worsening debt challenges

August 14, 2014

A recent report from The Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBB) for June indicates "mild economic momentum" in the domestic economy and a reduced government deficit, while issues continued to plague the mortgage and loan market. CBB released its Economic and Financial Developments report for the month of June 2014 on Monday, which shows mildly positive growth for the local economy and a decrease in the deficit supported by modest gains in tourism output, stable foreign investment-led project activity and declining unemployment rates over the past six months. The report argues that further improvement in the government's deficit hinged on the pace of the economic recovery and government expanding into other sectors, citing the upcoming implementation of a value-added tax (VAT) as a significant revenue generating measure for the government. "Additional revenue gains should also accrue from the successful implementation of several new measures -- the most significant of which is the [VAT]," reads the report. The report also suggests that inflation remained "relatively benign", despite rising energy costs, stating: "In the near-term, domestic inflation is poised to remain benign, although on-going instability in several oil producing markets could lead to higher international oil prices over the medium term, which could exert upward pressure on local energy costs."June saw an increase in people defaulting on their loans. Total private sector loan delinquencies grew by $20.2 million (1.5 percent), up to $1,359.5 million. Delinquencies in the short-term, 31-90 day segment, grew by $8.7 million (2.5 percent) to $359.1 million. The value of arrears in excess of 90 days also grew $11.5 million (1.2 percent) to $1 billion.However, mortgage woes proved particularly discouraging, with growth in total mortgage delinquencies expanding by $9.8 million (1.4 percent) to $725 million, as both the short-term and non-performing segments grew by $6.3 million (3.3 percent) and $3.5 million (0.7 percent), respectively. "Consumer arrears also rose, by $6.1 million (2.4 percent) to $266.8 million, due to a $3.9 million (4.4 percent) increase in 31-90 day delinquencies and a $2.2 million (1.3 percent) rise in non-accrual loans. The commercial component advanced by $4.2 million (1.2 percent) to $367.7 million, as the $5.7 million (2.0 percent) increase in the non-performing category, outpaced the $1.5 million (2.1 percent) decline in short-term delinquencies," says the report. Banks increased their loan loss provisions, by $51 million (9.8 percent), to $568.8 million due to the continued deterioration in credit quality. Because of this, the ratio of provisions to both arrears and non-performing loans grew to 41.8 percent and 56.9 percent, respectively. Banks also wrote-off approximately $7.1 million in delinquent loans, and recovered an estimated $3.4 million. CBB reported that amid concerns surrounding weak employment numbers and business conditions, credit to the private sector fell during the month by $34.1 million, below the prior year's $64.4 million contraction. Mortgages also declined by $11.0 million to $31.7 million. However, consumer credit recovered by $8.6 million, from a $23.8 million reduction last year.CBB ultimately noted that its policies remained largely unchanged, given the mild improvements to the economy.

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Skype, WhatsApp raise concern among regional telecoms operators

August 14, 2014

BTC has joined other regional telecoms operators in expressing concern that the interests of operators in the region are being undermined by voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) providers such as Skype, WhatsApp and others, which offer voice and multimedia delivery for customers at low or no cost.BTC and telecoms regulator URCA have both declared that they are keeping their eyes on VoIP providers as broadband develops in the country. The comments were prompted by vigorous debate at the 30th annual CANTO Conference, where the topic has been a source of controversy amongst Caribbean telecommunications operators, regulators and governments. It was claimed at the conference that governments in the region may be losing hundreds of millions of dollars collectively, as companies miss out on up to $500 million in revenue. The issue was originally raised by Digicel, which recently blocked a number of VoIPs, including Viber and NimBuzz, on their networks in Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad. Viber allows users to complete long distance calls from mobile using a data connection. In the CANTO opening session, Digicel Board Director PJ Mara passionately advocated the interests of telecoms operators in the region explaining that VoIP providers exploit infrastructures without contribution."With this (VoIP) arrangement, operators and the local governments lose," said Mara. "We are not opposed to all VoIPs, some, like Facebook, have a legitimate business model. However, we cannot have predatory providers draining local revenue for the benefit of venture capital firms away on Wall Street. Normally, a foreign provider pays termination fees to the destination provider for the use of the network, and from that we would pay taxes to the government. These VoIPs pay nothing. It is pure bypass."Mara called the situation "unsustainable" and one that a number of industry players have been trying to address for some time now."It's one that no one has been able to successfully overcome, and one that we are tackling head one," Mara said."Not only are we happy to take it head on, but a number of operators in the region will be tackling this issue in the coming months, because this is not something that can be sustained," he told the gathering.URCA Director of Policy and Regulations Steven Bereaux stated that while he understands the grievances of ICT operators, URCA will be taking a balanced approach in considering the issue, which he predicts will become very topical soon."I think it is important when we consider this issue, which will become a significant regulatory issue, that we consider holistically what these services mean to people, how they work and how or who they should pay," Bereaux said. "Whether the issue is revenue or regulation, it can be handled in many ways. We must be cautious. Disruptive technologies have been changing the way we work for a long time; even mobile was once disruptive. We must consider the perspectives of all stakeholders."BTC CEO Leon Williams believes that, though VoIP has not been a significant issue for the company thus far, BTC supports the CANTO stance as these providers rapidly grow. "CANTO's point of view is to simply level the playing field for legitimate licensed telecoms providers. We are all migrating to 4G, which is built for data; it is inevitable that there will be WhatsApp and other applications. However some are exploiting the infrastructure without paying licensing or termination fees. Also, these apps use significant data, degrading the quality and security of service; or, alternately, they increase the cost of data capacity to the provider, which would be passed on to the customer. So we support CANTO from a regional perspective."Williams added that though BTC has not yet planned any local action, the company has always sought to go above and beyond to adapt to the needs of the customer, pointing to BTC's past VoIP policies."As to the way forward locally, we have not set a specific plan," said Williams. "We always look to accommodate the customer. Look to VIBE, our own VoIP product [that] we launched in the 1990s as an alternate to predatory services. The product eventually cannibalized our long-distance and we had to replace it in 2011 with our HomePhone Plus, which provides long distance at more affordable rates. But now, as we did then, we seek to find a solution that benefits our customers, the company and the regulatory environment. We will be working in conjunction with CANTO to address this."

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Disruptions expected as Cable Bahamas upgrades

August 14, 2014

Disruptions to Cable Bahamas' service are anticipated in the early hours of Sunday as the company switches customers over to a new Metaswitch phone switch and software system in which it has invested more than $3 million over the last year.The company said that, once in use, the system will enable new features for the more than 26,000 REVOICE subscribers and pave the way for cellular services."We've seen tremendous success with REVOICE," said Cable Bahamas Head of Marketing David Burrows. "And although we are nowhere near capacity, we know that we must continue our core strategy of exceeding the increasing expectations of our subscribers."Burrows said that the upgrade supports the integration of multiple voice services and will enable the company to combine landline and future mobile services. "We are putting in place the key infrastructure that will lay the foundation for the future, so that we will be ready to deliver a unified solution for home, business and mobile phone customers," Burrows said.REVOICE home and business phone subscribers can look forward to enhancements and expanded capabilities to their existing REVOICE services in the near future, as a planned upgrade to the service takes place on August 17, said the company.Cable Bahamas' REVOICE subscribers will see short periods of interruption in their services between the hours of 12 midnight and 6:00 a.m. Sunday as the new switch comes online and they are transferred over.The company said that the overwhelming majority of REVOICE subscribers will not notice the interruption on Sunday morning when the upgrade takes place. After the upgrade is complete, a new password will need to be set the first time the new voicemail box is accessed (dial *123).REVOICE subscribers will then be guided through simple menus to help customize the new voicemail box. Old voicemail messages will be lost due to the transition to the new system.The entire process is expected to be completed no later than 6:00 a.m. Sunday. Should any subscribers find their services have not been restored by that time, they are encouraged to do a power reset of their EMTA/phone box, by removing the battery and then disconnecting the unit from the power. After waiting 30 seconds, the battery can be replaced and the unit plugged back into the wall outlet. Service should then be fully restored.Neither REVTV cable TV service nor REVON broadband Internet services will be affected during this time.Throughout the evening, customer support email will be actively monitored to assist with any problems. Subscribers can write to info@cablebahamas.com or iss@cablebahamas.com for assistance between the hours of 12 midnight and 6:00 a.m. Sunday, the company advised.
Cable Bahamas has been testing the new phone switch and software for several months with tremendous success, it added. "We have seen that this new platform is a great step forward in telephone service for our country," Burrows said. "We are so pleased to be ahead of the game as we anticipate and respond to the growing needs of our home and business phone customers for today and the future."Updates about the upgrade will be posted on Cable Bahamas' Facebook page at facebook.com/GetRevdUp and via their Twitter feed @cablebahamas.

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BTC, URCA Plan Ahead for Regulation of VoIP Providers
BTC, URCA Plan Ahead for Regulation of VoIP Providers

August 13, 2014

Entities put heads together at CANTO Conference to discuss the controversial evolving issue...

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Scotiabank Supports Police Summer Camps
Scotiabank Supports Police Summer Camps

August 13, 2014

Scotiabank in The Bahamas, through its Bright Future philanthropic program, continued supporting the Royal Bahamas Police Force...

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BEC says it is 'doing its best'

August 13, 2014

BAHAMAS Electricity Corporation spokesperson Arnette Ingraham said yesterday that the company is currently "doing its best" to maintain electricity supply to the country with "an aging fleet of engines..."

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I've never met a crawfish I didn't like
"I've never met a crawfish I didn't like"

August 13, 2014

You know them as lobsters Ö one of the best, most succulent seafood delicacies you'll ever taste. But here in The Bahamas we call them crawfish. Same incredible taste, just a different name...

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SP: Atlantis will spend 121 mil. over four years

August 13, 2014

A Wall Street credit ratings agency has stated that Atlantis plans to spend $121.5 million on capital projects over a four-year period.S&P, in a report prepared to accompany its rating of debt related to the refinancing of the resort, said that Atlantis will spend this amount on capital projects between 2015 and 2018. Projects to be funded include refurbishments of the Coral and Beach Towers and "other minor projects". Averaged over the four-year period, this amounts to spending of $30.3 million per year.The report states that Atlantis spent an average of $33.1 million per year on capital works between 2008 and 2013: $38 million in 2013, $25.7 million in 2012, $32.6 million 2011, $35.2 million in 2010, $27.4 million in 2009 and $39.8 million in 2008. The report adds that Atlantis spent $198 million, or $68,120 per guest room, on capital upgrades between 2008 and 2013 and an additional $44 million on special projects "mainly focused on various public spaces".Averaged per year, the capital investment amount highlighted by S&P for the 2015 to 2018 period represents a slight reduction in spending on average compared with its historical capital expenditure levels over the past six years.Speaking at a conference to announce the completion of its refinancing on July 2 - a closing drawn into question by the S&P report dated August 4, which highlights an August 19 closing date for the $1 billion commercial mortgage-backed securities transaction - Andrea Balkan, managing partner of Brookfield Real Estate Financial Partners, which holds Atlantis among its assets, had stated that the company is looking to invest a "significant sum" in a five-year capital expenditure plan for the resort.

The S&P report, prepared to inform potential investors in the Atlantis debt deal, reveals previously undisclosed details about Atlantis' operations and revenue stream based on consultations with Atlantis management, reviews of the company's property-level operating statements and other key documentation. S&P describes Atlantis as having a "diverse revenue stream", in which room revenue typically makes up only about 31 percent of total revenue, while food and beverage sales have historically contributed around 25 percent of revenue.The casino and a race and sports book generates about 16 percent of revenue while the water park generated around nine percent of the company's revenue in 2013. The report adds that the park's attendance has "increased significantly" each year since the project was completed in 2007.Demonstrating the seasonality of the resort, the report notes that Atlantis typically generates some 88 percent of its net cash flow (NCF) between March and August, while typically seeing negative NCF in September and October - the hurricane season.Elsewhere in the report, the data reveals that total revenue for the resort rose from $720.4 million in 2010 to $817.4 million in 2013, before falling again to $793.7 million in 2013. A further fall to $791.9 million is projected for 2014. Food and beverage revenue has risen from $182.1 million to $209.9 million from 2010 to 2013, while $207.7 million in revenue is projected for 2014.Casino revenue remained fairly static, rising slightly from $122.6 million to $130.8 million in 2013. This fell from $138.7 million in 2012. Revenue of $129.6 million is projected for 2014.S&P reported that Atlantis' average daily room rate (ADR) has fallen overall since 2009 from $330.89 to $298.32 in 2013, with a projected $301.78 for 2014.The data reveals that Atlantis paid $15 million in management fees in 2013, a slight increase from its management fees in 2010, of $13.6 million. The company is reimbursed by an agreement allowing it to collect the equivalent of one percent of gross revenue for its services.On Monday Guardian Business reported that S&P's analysis of Atlantis and its operations had led to a projection that its "long-term sustainable value", equivalent to a projection of the property's value, is some 54 percent lower than that determined by an appraiser. It linked this assessment to the fact that Atlantis will face "significant competition" from Baha Mar when it comes on-stream next year.According to S&P spokesperson April Kabahar, when analyzing a commercial mortgage-backed security (CMBS), S&P examines the underlying property - in this case, the Atlantis resort - and derives a property's long-term sustainable net cash flow, taking into consideration the cyclical nature of the commercial real estate markets and also volatility in certain asset/property types. By looking at the revenues and expenses that could impact the property's cash flow, such as occupancy rates, capital expenses and more, the agency makes certain projections. The number derived from this analysis represents S&P's "long-term sustainable" NCF, equivalent to a projection of the property's value.

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Construction sector re-emerging as new starts up 40

August 13, 2014

A recent report from the Department of Statistics has shown encouraging signs of recovery in the country's struggling construction sector for the first quarter of 2014, amid concerns from one prominent construction firm over its lackluster performance. An increase in permits issued for construction of commercial and industrial buildings led signs of recovery in the construction sector for the first quarter of 2014, with a five percent rise in new construction permits issued and a 40 percent rise in construction starts throughout the construction industry, according to the department's quarterly Building Construction Statistics Report.The number of new permits issued is typically considered a leading indicator of recovery in the sector, pointing to a likely increase in actual construction activity in the coming quarters. Despite the encouraging figures, President of CGT Construction Larry Treco claimed that CGT had experienced a significant decrease in activity during the past year, including the first quarter of 2014, calling it one of the worst periods in the company's history."This year from January was one of the worst years we've ever had. For the first six months of the year, we were down 70 percent from last year and just started to see an increase in inquiries in the past month," stated Treco. However, Treco remained "optimistic" for the company's prospects in the second half of the year, given the increase in inquiries and noticed the uptick in activity in the country. Construction has traditionally been a key sector in the economy, generating significant employment, particularly among male workers. The Department of Statistics report also highlighted an increase in the number and the value of permits issued, with permits issued rising to 340 from 323 for the same period last year, and the value of permits rising from $120 million to $150 million."The most significant difference of these two periods occurred in the value of permits issued for the commercial/industrial sector in New Providence, which showed an increase of approximately $47 million," read the report.New construction starts, at 144, rose from 103 in the first quarter of 2013. "The value showed an increase from $26 million in the first quarter of 2013 to $60 million in the first quarter of 2014. In the commercial sector, the value of construction starts increased from $7 million in 2013 to $25 million in the same period of 2014," added the department. However, the total number of new construction completions fell to 148, down from 177 compared to last year. This decrease reflected an overall decrease in value of completions from $60 million in the first quarter of 2013 to $31 million in the first quarter of 2014.The department report indicated that this decline was most obvious "in the commercial sector for New Providence, where the value decreased from $23 million to $6 million," while Grand Bahama's private sector also showed a decrease, from $13 million to $6 million during the same period of time.

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Consolidated Water: slower bulk sales due to WSC program success

August 13, 2014

BISX-listed Consolidated Water has reported a slight uptick in profit in the second quarter of 2014, despite reductions in water sales in The Bahamas attributable to successes achieved by the Water and Sewerage Corporation in cutting down on water lost from its system.Reporting on its 2014 second quarter financial performance, CWCO revealed that net income attributable to the company's shareholders totaled $2.75 million, or $0.19 per diluted share, for the three months ended June 30, 2014, compared with net income attributable to CWCO shareholders of $2.85 for the same period last year - a 3.4 percent rise.Total revenues for the second quarter of 2014 increased slightly - around two percent - to approximately $16.9 million, compared with approximately $16.6 million in the second quarter of 2013.This increased revenue was primarily attributable to a rise in retail water revenues of around eight percent due to an increase in the number of gallons of water sold by the company's retail operations in the Cayman Islands and the company's facility in Bali, Indonesia.Its bulk water revenue fell due to a decline in sales to the WSC in The Bahamas. CWCO said: "Bulk water revenues declined slightly (two percent) to approximately $10 million (59 percent of total revenues) in the second quarter of 2014, compared with approximately $10.2 million (61 percent of total revenues) in the prior year quarter. "In 2013, the WSC purchased water volumes from the company's Blue Hills plant that were significantly higher than the contracted capacity of the plant. However, as a result of water conservation and loss mitigation efforts it has conducted since that time, the WSC has lowered the amount of water lost by its distribution system. And, consequently, in 2014 the WSC has reduced the volume of water it purchased from the Blue Hills plant."The company confirmed that gross profits in the bulk water business segment declined by $45,000 or one percent in the quarter relative to the year earlier, as the company saw a reduction in water sales by its Bahamas operation of $659,000. "The impact of this development was largely offset by higher bulk water volume sales in the Cayman Islands and Belize, as well as improved operating efficiencies at our bulk water production facilities," added CWCO.This reduction in water sales confirms reports from WSC General Manager Glen Laville that the organization's non-revenue water reduction program, pursued using a $81 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is starting to show some signs of bearing fruit. When executing the loan with the IDB in 2012, the corporation indicated that it was not generating revenue from over 5 million gallons of the water it supplies daily in New Providence due to factors such as theft and leakage. Laville said at the time that this figure was equivalent to over 50 percent in losses and was valued at nearly $16 million annually.Laville has suggested that the investment in the water loss reduction will "pay for itself" over time.

Elsewhere, CWCO said that "significant changes" in its consolidated balance sheet, when compared with December 31, 2013, resulted from a reduction in accounts receivables, in large part due to payments made by the WSC, and purchases of land by the company's Mexico subsidiary. "During May and June 2014, the WSC made significant incremental payments to the company to reduce the past due amounts it owed to our Bahamian subsidiary," noted David Sasnett, chief financial officer of the company. "As a result, our consolidated accounts receivable decreased by approximately $6.9 million from December 31, 2013 to June 30, 2014."Interest income increased to $366,772 for the second quarter of 2014, up from $169,796 in the second quarter of 2013 due to the receipt of interest due on past due accounts receivables from the WSC.Consolidated gross profit was relatively unchanged at approximately $6.4 million (38 percent of total revenues) in the most recent quarter, versus approximately $6.4 million (39 percent of total revenues) in the second quarter of 2013. Consolidated general and administrative expenses increased five percent to approximately $3.8 million in the second quarter of 2014, compared with approximately $3.6 million in the year earlier quarter.

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BTC CEO: National coverage demands 'level playing field'

August 13, 2014

The CEO of Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) has supported the prime minister's demand for all future cellular service providers to service the entire Bahamas, claiming that the requirement would help avoid "cherry picking" of lucrative markets at the expense of less populated regions in the country.BTC CEO Leon Williams said that while he was not necessarily "pleased" by the announcement, the obligation would create a more level playing field for future competitors."If you are not careful when you set up legislation, and you open the market, the possibility exists that the new entrant would cherry pick just the profitable centers," said Williams. Prime Minister Perry Christie revealed last week that any future providers would have to cover the whole country, stating: "To compete with BTC, you are going to have to come with a program that talks about how you are going to cover The Bahamas. That is going to be the challenge."Williams said: "The prime minister has stated that they're looking for an infrastructure hive...and as such you've got to be able to service the entire Bahamas, from Abaco in the north to Inagua in the south. Otherwise the playing field is not level. Not only is the playing field not level, why do we give an alternative to Bahamians living in Nassau and discriminate against Bahamians in Inagua? "He's the prime minister of The Bahamas, not the prime minister of Nassau. All Bahamians should have the same (access) to the quality of service and competitive advantages as the Bahamian in Nassau," he added.Christie hoped that The Bahamas would obtain a new telephone service provider within six months of the government's telecoms liberalization committee issuing a request for proposals (RFP). However, Christie did not specify when the RFP would be issued. Cable and Wireless Communications' (CWC) monopoly on the cellular market expired in April. Cable Bahamas, Virgin and Digicel have expressed interest in expanding into The Bahamas. Williams spoke with Guardian Business during a panel at CANTO's 30th annual Conference and Trade Exhibition, where the panel delivered a declaration on creating a single information and communications technology (ICT) space for the Caribbean. Panelists included representatives from leading Caribbean telecoms companies including Digicel, Lime and Columbus Communications.

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Brewery's profits down 8.3 percent for year-to-date

August 13, 2014

Commonwealth Brewery has suffered a net income fall of 8.3 percent for the year to date, notwithstanding a 2.5 percent rise in profit in a "solid" second quarter.Net income for the six months ended June 30, 2014 fell to $8.8 million from $9.6 million, financial results released yesterday revealed. Total operating expenses were up to $50.5 million, from $49.1 million.However, the BISX-listed company posted net income for the second quarter of $5.4 million, a rise over the $5.2 million recorded in the same period last year.The company - which produces Kalik, Heineken, Vitamalt and Guinness, among other brands - saw revenue rise 4.8 percent in the quarter ended June 30, 2014, thanks to a higher sales volume in beer.

"The strong Q2 performance more than compensated for a weak Q1 leading to a year-to-date revenue growth for 1.9 percent," said the company, in comments from management accompanying the results released yesterday.For the first six months, Commonwealth Brewery was able to increase its net cash from operating activities by 87 percent, to $9.6 million, a change it attributed to "better working capital performance". Cash and cash equivalents for the end of the six month period amounted to $3.4 million, a fall from $4.3 million during the same period last year.The company paid an $11.7 million dividend related to the year 2013 in April 2014.Managing Director Nico Pinotsis was said to be out of office yesterday. The company's financial controller did not return a message seeking comment up to press time.

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Turn Ocean Living Into Ocean Living at Starfish Isles
Turn Ocean Living Into Ocean Living at Starfish Isles

August 12, 2014

Have you ever dreamed of living near the ocean? Itís time to turn your love of the ocean into a lifestyle by discovering the spectacular ocean view residences at Starfish Isles...

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Atlantic Medical Donates Over $43,000 to Cancer Society & Diabetic Association

August 12, 2014

Charities Will Split Proceeds from Fun Walk...

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