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Prime Minister Perry Christie was involved in a "salvage operation" to get back two percent of the shares in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) for the Bahamian people, said former member of Parliament Lester Turnquest, who is managing director of a financial services firm.
"First of all, my position has always been that the original sale to Cable & Wireless was a giveaway," said Turnquest in an interview with National Review.
"That is a position that I fundamentally believe in my heart and from a business point of view. My position always was that BTC ought to have been sold for a multiple of what it was sold for. But the government of the day determined to sell it. It was in my view, a fire sale."
Turnquest, of The Green Bay Group Ltd., praised the announcement made last week by the prime minister that the government has secured a majority economic interest in BTC from Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC).
"I know that there has been some criticism of the second transaction," he said of the new deal, "but for me it's a very simple assessment.
"The point is that the government of the day has gone in and secured a benefit for Bahamians of the two percent that has always been in question. Believe me, when it comes to having shares in a company, what matters most is the economic benefit of the shares.
"So the Treasury, the Consolidated Fund, will benefit from dividends on the 49 percent that the government originally held and [funds from] the foundation will go to certain community works that the trustees would determine."
Turnquest was referring to the BTC Foundation, which will hold the reacquired two percent shares in a trust.
"I am advised that all of the trustees will be Bahamians, and so there will be in the operation of that foundation no bias against Bahamian interests, but rather a bias in favor of Bahamian interests."
The former MP acknowledged that the new deal is not perfect, but said it is a much better arrangement than the controversial sale of the 51 percent shares to Cable & Wireless in 2011.
"I would have preferred never to have had to go [down] this route, but...the right honorable prime minister is essentially seeking to repair, for want of a better word, damage to a transaction that most Bahamians never supported originally.
"In fact, one former minister in the previous government told me that his vote to sell BTC under the deal and provisions under which they sold it, was the worst vote he ever cast in Parliament. I told him, I said, 'yes, it was.'
"I think in view of the landscape, in view of the limited space in which the government had to move, it was the best deal that could have been done.
"This deal salvages what was, number one, a bad deal for the Bahamian people; number two, it had the effect of restoring economic benefit to the balance of the two percent; and third, it allowed the government to come to the Bahamian people, and say 'We told you that we were going to do something with this transaction, we have done it'.
"Some persons may nitpick about this, nitpick about that, but the bottom line is Bahamians didn't have the benefit of the two percent before; they have the benefit of the two percent now."
Turnquest also brushed aside the argument that the new deal is essentially worthless as the government and the Bahamian people still do not control BTC.
"There are some persons who say, well the management of the company still rests with foreigners," he said.
"Well, the reality is that both the previous government, the Free National Movement government, and the PLP government, always had a position that a government ought to get out of the management business.
"You know and I know, worldwide there are very few governments, with the exception of Singapore of course, that effectively manage enterprises.
"And so, while we can quibble and find fault legitimately with the way Cable & Wireless is running BTC now, for example the cell service, the truth of the matter is that if it were not Cable & Wireless, it would have been another strategic partner."
Turnquest insisted that the original sale of the majority interest in BTC to CWC was a bad deal.
"There was a point at which BTC was valued literally in the hundreds of millions of dollars," he said. "There was significant expenditure of capital, that is taxpayers' money, the contributed surplus by the taxpayers to invest significantly in infrastructure, submarine cables etc., that were essentially in my view given away in this original transaction," he said.
"What any number of business persons would have done, would have been to lease the hard infrastructure to Cable & Wireless or to BTC and that way you would have had an ongoing revenue stream on the capital expenditure that the Bahamian population has made.
"But the general rule of thumb when one sells an enterprise is generally you sell it at a multiple of 10 times the net profit. When one considers the net profit of BTC, it is reasonable to conclude that, that sales figure was nowhere close to where it ought to have been.
"Now perhaps there were some other considerations that the government had that the public does not have. Certainly, from where I sit as John Q Public, BTC, that was a giveaway, but not only that. In addition to that, you provided the operating capital for the new owner.
"You left $15 million so that they could meet obligations in the short term. So what was quoted as a sales price, for eg. of $206 million, was effectively $190 odd million. And that transaction may have benefitted a narrower group of persons than Bahamians would have anticipated."
Surrounded by the grandeur of Oxford University, seven leading Bahamians in the hospitality industry made history as the country's first graduates in the Master's of Management, Hospitality and Tourism program - the only cohort where all members achieved distinction or credit.
The ceremony, held at the prestigious UK institution on Sept 24, was also attended by graduates from many different countries, including Vanuatu, the UK, Finland, Australia and Malaysia.
The degree was offered to tourism industry professionals through Revans University/IMCA in conjunction with the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA).
In her valedictorian address, Lynne Johnson, Director of Catering and Convention Services at the Sheraton Nassau Resort, said this group of Bahamians have dubbed themselves "Bahamas Trailblazers".
"Represented here tonight are six trails for other Bahamian professionals to follow," she told the audience.
The idea, she said, is to further educate the professionals behind the country's most precious industry.
Jermaine Wright, the director of business Development at the British Colonial Hilton, who also graduated as salutatorian with distinction, said they will return home and "utilize [their] knowledge to take the Bahamian tourism sector to another plateau".
"This group of professionals will now be able to engage in consultancy as they have in-depth knowledge of various areas of research," he told Guardian Business.
During the one-year program, led by Dr J. Anthony Hall and Dr T. Jennifer Edwards, students attended classes all-day on Saturday and Sunday every six weeks.
Through the university and BHA, classes were made convenient and accessible to the working professionals.
Projects, assignments and a thesis were part of the Master's program. Topics for the thesis included food and beverage management, out-sourcing in the hospitality industry, bonefishing in The Bahamas, the mix use of condo hotels and resorts, automatic 15 percent gratuity in The Bahamas, the Americas and Globally, marine operators of The Bahamas and Cruise Conversion: capturing increased revenues from cruise ship passengers.
Wright hopes other Bahamians will blaze trails of their own.
"I would recommend this program to other senior hospitality leaders within the sector," he added.
"The flexibility of the class schedule is conducive to working professionals. The program gives one an opportunity to not only expand knowledge, but also be part of a selective fraternity of fellow industry leaders."
In fact, on the heels of this success, the next cohort has already begun, with seven new students currently studying towards their degrees.
After arriving in London with family and friends, the most recent graduates also took part in an educational workshop one day before heading to Oxford for the ceremony. Upon returning to London, the graduates also paid a courtesy call on the Bahamas High Commissioner to the United Kingdom - his Excellency Paul Farquaharson at Bahamas House.
Desire Moxey, Director of Catering and Conventional Services at Wyndham Nassau Resort, Shamine Johnson, manager at BHA, Carmel Churchill, group sales manager at Grand Lucayan Resort, Raylene Gardiner, owner services manager at Old Bahama Bay and Raymond Francis, executive director at the Out Island Tourism Board rounded out the original Bahamian cohort for this program.
The highlight of the experience was perhaps the graduation dinner and reception, when Johnson delivered her speech to a thunderous standing ovation.
She described their "Action Learning Journey" to the formation of a hurricane - growing from tropical disturbance, tropical depression, tropical storm and a hurricane - that ends with a push to "discover our abilities and achieving strengthened skills and an invaluable experience".
"Ours will show a trail of survival, leadership and growth," he said, "which we have blazed for our fellow Bahamians to follow."
THE Securities Commission is seeking to implement regulations mandating that investment advisors who provide brokerage services obtain professional indemnity insurance, ensuring there is a "consistent regulatory approach" relative all firms providing broker-dealer services.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
BANK of the Bahamas International is eyeing an initial client base of "several hundred" Bahamian merchants for the planned launch of its e-commerce platform in six months' time, telling Tribune Business yesterday that the private sector was "crying out" for such online services.
Paul McWeeney, the BISX-listed institution's managing director, said the facility - part of its expanded electronic banking platform - would enable Bahamian retailers and other companies to establish online merchant accounts and receive payment for goods sold via the Internet.
Explaining that the bank's e-commerce platform would "add value...
China Construction America's top executive in The Bahamas says "smarter airlines" would consider a direct flight from China to Nassau over the next few years. Tiger Wu, the company's Vice President - a subsidiary of the largest construction firm in China - believes the creation of the $2.6 billion Baha Mar resort will spark considerable foreign interest in the region.
By ALISON LOWE
The Bahamian maritime industry's ability to support the creation of 1,500 new jobs and an entirely new revenue stream for financial services providers was proposed yesterday by a shipping industry executive.
Chandler Sands, managing director of Campbell Shipping, called on the financial services sector to consider the opportunity that lies in offering consulting services to shipping companie, who are "struggling" to handle challenges their own industry has mastered, such as "risk assessment and reputational management".
He was addressing around 200 delegates at the Nassau Conference, at which financial services sta ...
Aided by an equity placement led by KPMG, Switcha, the Bahamian drinks company, will invest $8 million this year and hire an additional 100 people when it acquires a farm in Andros and establishes a new 22,000-square-foot facility to accommodate its growing operations.
Mervin Sweeting Jr., president of Switcha, said that the company expects to spend $5 million acquiring an existing grapefruit farm, along with 500 acres of land adjacent to it, and $3 million on the new facility, which will be in the Airport Industrial Park. The company has outgrown its present headquarters on Gladstone Road within just two years.
While the company had already been eyeing the possibility of growing its own limes to be used in the production of its popular citrus-based beverage, recent inflation in the price of the fruit, due to natural and criminal factors in its key source market, Mexico, have galvanized the company in its belief that it must secure its own lime supply.
Sweeting said the impact of lime inflation on his business has been "very severe", ultimately causing the company to have to start using lemons instead.
Despite the traditionally high level of local demand for limes, in an interview with Guardian Business on Monday, Super Value President Rupert Robert said he had to cut back on purchases of limes by 50 percent after prices rose from $19 a box to $115, impacting local appetite for the fruit.
Don Carnine, general manager of Bahamas Food Services, said he has never experienced an inflationary impact "this bad for so long", and added that many companies which had previously relied on a regular supply of limes are now turning to lemons or pre-packaged lime juice. Taking a more long-term approach to his company's supply of the key commodity, Sweeting said that a sales agreement has now been drafted to facilitate the purchase of the grapefruit farm, currently owned by investors based in Florida, by Switcha. On a nearby 500 acres of land, a lime orchard would be established.
"We are now focusing very heavily on growing our own limes. I've been to North Andros a few times and spoken with the different producers there. We've always thought about it, but the inflation has greatly pushed us in going forward with it. Having the financial ability is another issue because we are now in a position where we can finance our own farm and continue with our regular operations. I am meeting with the owners at the end of the month to finalize some numbers," said Sweeting.
Sweeting said he anticipates starting work on getting lime production underway in Andros by the end of the year, a move which he anticipates will require the hiring of around 60 people.
The company hopes to eventually move into other product lines, including using grapefruit and limes to make citrus oil, which is said to have a number of health and wellness-related uses.
"We have a lot of work to do in terms of getting things prepared. We would need to top off all the trees and get the irrigation done," he added.
In Nassau, Switcha expects to start construction of its new facility on three acres in the Airport Industrial Park by the summer.
"The beverage industry is a large and lucrative market, but you need a lot of space - for equipment, raw materials, space for finished goods, and to manoeuver, and for additional marketing paraphernalia," he explained.
I rise on behalf of the Ministry of Health to make my contribution to this 2010/2011 budget presentation and thank the great constituency of Killarney for the opportunity to present this, my third health budget to this honorable chamber.
I wish to congratulate the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Hubert Alexander Ingraham, for his courage in presenting a Budget that is reflective of the realities of the national economic situation and that refused to defer difficult decisions for future generation of leaders.