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Today the trade liberalization commitments made by the Government of The Bahamas in the areas of trade in services and investment were formally incorporated into the Economic Partnership Agreement between CARIFORUM and the European Union (EPA). The Ministerial Joint Council of the EPA, the highest decision making body under the EPA, made the decision to incorporate the commitments. The decision formalizes agreements reached between The Bahamas and the European Union in 2010.
Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder, who has responsibility for international trade, advised that though the decision by the Joint Council was procedural, in the sense that it memorialized the understanding reached in 2010, the event of The Bahamas' investment and services commitments being incorporated into the EPA is of considerable weight and importance in the nation's history of trade liberalization and regional integration.
In the context of The Bahamas being a services-based economy and its current bid to accede to the WTO, the minister noted that a liberalized services regime will be the platform from which The Bahamas will become fully integrated into the global marketplace. The Bahamas will leverage its expertise in the area of services to become a world leader in this economic sector.
The investment and services commitments will now be provisionally applied pursuant to the provisions of the EPA.
One small business comparing itself to David is out for the Goliath of its sector, looking to the National Job Readiness and Training Programme (NJRP) to load its sling with trained young Bahamians.
For an investor, technology companies can be a scary place.
With memories of the dot.com crash still fresh in some people's minds, investors are rightfully cautious. But last week, Apple surpassed Exxon as the world's most valuable company, worth $337.2 billion now compared to the oil-giant's meager $330.8 billion.
It was truly a sign of the times, said Kevin Burrows, the Senior Vice President of CFAL.
"It's important to highlight that when you think of technology companies today, they aren't the same highly leveraged and volatile industries they were back in 2000, during the Internet bubble," he said.
"These companies are fairly mature now and have very strong balance sheets."
But if you're seeking an investment in technology, Borrows said Apple isn't the only company in the electronic universe.
On Monday, Google sent stocks of Wall Street flying when they acquired Motorola Mobility for a whopping $12.5 billion - in cash.
The acquisition sent Motorola's stock price surging more than 60 percent.
Analysts said the move was the first step by Google to build a position in the mobile world so they can distribute their products and services through phones and tablets.
If this proves accurate, the acquisition could mean huge strides for Google.
At press time, Google was trading at $533.14 per share.
"This is really the first time they are buying a manufacturing type of company," Burrows added. "Google is clearly diversifying. I think this purchase made people realize that Google is not content to let its growth rate slowly decline like that of Microsoft. That sometimes happens when you have a monopolistic situation. It's good to see that Google, as big as they are, can still focus on earnings and revenue growth."
In fact, Burrows said he wouldn't be surprised if eventually Google surpasses Apple as the world's most valuable company.
In some respects, technology companies are a good buy when it comes to investment, he said. They can be less risky than your industrial company that may be dependent on economic growth, or the lack thereof.
However, can these companies be too much of a good thing?
"I think that something investors are trying to get their heads around is how do you evaluate a company like Google or Facebook. At times, these juggernauts appear to be invincible."
He points out that no business model is iron clad.
However, in his mind, what differentiates Google from Facebook, for example, is Google's willingness to diversify its holdings.
"I tend to question the valuation of something like Facebook and social media," Burrows said. "I wouldn't put them [in the] same value for the long term. "
An online brokerage launched early last year is reporting more than 100,000 equity transactions each day, a figure that far exceeds all other Bahamian firms combined.
SureTrader.com, listed with the Securities Exchange of The Bahamas since January 2012, has increased its staff to eight Bahamians and filled out its 4,000-square-foot office at Elizabeth on Bay. The firm plans to hire up to 20 more people by the end of this year and currently seeks professional Bahamians amid expansion, according to its founder Guy Gentile.
The parent company, Swiss American Securities Limited, is also the founder of SpeedTrader.com, a U.S. online trading broker with around $20 million in annual revenue.
Gentile told Guardian Business that SureTrader.com is poised to earn $25 million in annual revenue in 2013.
"What gives us our edge is superior trading technology and a New York business approach," he said. "I operate a lean aggressive staff that has a strong desire to be the best. Not only the best in The Bahamas, but the best in the world."
Gentile added that SureTrader.com hopes to open 5,000 new accounts in 2013 after opening 2,000 in 2012. The firm wants to become the largest brokerage in The Bahamas by revenue in 2014.
"We have given ourselves an advantage by offering extended margin leverage of 6-1 compared to 3-1 in Canada and 4-1 in the U.S. We have the largest short list in the industry, we allow shorting in penny stocks, and you can fund an account easily with a credit card. There are no restrictions on day trading," he added.
Later this year, Swiss American plans to widen its project offerings through Canadian stock and options, Gentile said, and by connecting VISA debit cards to the accounts.
Following a staffing boost, the firm also wants to offer a customer service line and eventually go to 24 hours after adding European trading. The company has recently aligned itself with RBC Royal Bank, Interactive Brokers, ETC Clearing and DAS Trader.
Gentile, a U.S. investor, remains the largest tenant in the Elizabeth on Bay plaza, located on East Bay Street. He has invested approximately $400,000 into the new SureTrader.com office, with an additional $1.5 million or so in Sur Sushi.
The latter is expected to open in the coming weeks.
Back in December, Gentile reported that the restaurant has received more than 500 applications. Only 45 Bahamians will be hired for the trendy, new restaurant. Blu, formerly located across from the up-and-coming Sur Sushi, closed its doors late last year and put dozens of Bahamians out of work. Investors hope Gentile and his business ventures will help re-energize the plaza and East Bay Street.
Nassau, Bahamas - Entrepreneurs, corporate
workers, sales people, businessmen, small business owners, churches, and
individuals will convene at The Sheraton Beach Resort for the first
ever Social Media Bootcamp on May 30th & 31st. According to a survey
conducted last December, the average American spends almost 61/2 hours
on social media. These workshops are designed to help participants
leverage the time spent using social media.
President and CEO of
The Publicity Agency (Bahamas), Miranda Inniss said "With the
increasing popularity of Social Media globally and its impact on our
personal and professional lives, this is an ideal time to introduce the
Bootcamp to the community. As an entrepreneur, I understand the
challenges business owners face in engaging customers and maintaining
profitability. The Social Media Bootcamp will offer participants
opportunities to use social media effectively to help grow their
It crept like a spider, softly climbing up our back. Suddenly, it appeared in front of our eyes: big and black with venomous fangs poised to strike. This was how it felt to suddenly, out of the blue, be told that a foreign multinational company had been given the right to explore, drill and own oil in The Bahamas. The Bahamian public was not forewarned. There were no public meetings or discourse. So, how could we be blamed for thinking it was of little import and "no big deal"? Well, I'm here to tell my fellow Bahamians that the ownership of Bahamian oil by any foreign multinational company is of huge importance and consequence to Bahamians now and in the future.
Private oil prospecting is nothing new. It has been pursued tirelessly across the globe for the last century, since the price of oil made it akin to "black gold". However, in recent times private prospecting has slowed because the majority of countries are now aware of their right to own their oil and no longer desire private interference. It seems that The Bahamas has been caught sleeping at the wheel. A main reason for the excitement behind private oil exploration here is that the foreign prospectors believe us to be ignorant of what the rest of the world already knows: that nobody allows private ownership of oil anymore.
While pursuing a Masters in International Comparative Business Law in London, I studied multinational enterprises (a company that has multiple nationalities) and their contractual interactions with governments, within the principles of International Law. According to International Law, all countries are sovereign and a law unto themselves.
As a sovereign state, they have the right to nationalize private industries within their borders. Nationalization means to convert from private to governmental ownership and control. Historically, many nations that used foreign companies to explore for and extract oil later nationalized the private oil companies on behalf of their citizens, who they considered to have been exploited by the private oil companies.
Which countries have nationalized their oil?
Almost every oil producing country has nationalized its oil. A study by consulting firm PFC Energy found that only seven percent of the world's oil reserves are in countries which allow private international companies to own the oil. Whereas, 65 percent of the world's oil reserves are completely government owned. Why should The Bahamas join the dwindling seven percent?
If we look at Norway, which nationalized its oil in 1972, just two years after foreign companies began exploring for oil off its coast, we can see a productive example of nationalization. With the proceeds of nationalized oil, Norway provided multiple welfare services for its citizens, such as free education, healthcare and pensions. A little closer to home, our Caribbean neighbor, Trinidad, nationalized its oil industry in the 1970s and 80s. At its peak, oil and gas accounted for 40 percent of Trinidad's GDP and more than 90 percent of its exports.
OPEC, which stands for Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, is an organization of countries that nationalized their oil production from foreign multinational companies. Its members include: Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
Why nationalize oil now?
Some may argue that The Bahamas should wait until oil is struck, before it contemplates nationalizing its oil industry. Let the foreign company do all the difficult, technical work and then take over. However, this is an ill advised strategy for several reasons. Firstly, nationalization has a terrible impact on foreign relations. Because The Bahamas is a tourist destination, any attempt to nationalize oil could be seem as a threat by tourist exporting nations, possibly leading to sanctions on tourism. In other words, nationalization, once the train has left the station, is looked upon as somewhat underhanded and akin to stealing. For this reason, it is shunned by the international community. One need only look to the recent outcry from Spain and the United States against Argentina's attempt to nationalize a Spanish oil company to see the impact of nationalization on foreign relations.
Another reason to nationalize now is due to the high price of oil. The leverage of oil producing nations as to how their oil is extracted and exported to the international community is at an all time high. Should Cuba, The Bahamas' immediate neighbor, strike oil, The Bahamas' leverage would increase 100 fold. The Bahamas would have the leverage to borrow funds for exploration and call the shots with regard to any partnership or royalty agreement.
A further reason is that nationalization, once oil is discovered, will be very, very costly. Right now, the worth of The Bahamas oil industry is negligible, because oil has yet to be found. Once oil is located, the value of the foreign company that discovers it will skyrocket. International law posits that in order to nationalize foreign owned property, a country must pay compensation at an appropriate and equitable rate. The Bahamas would not be able to "legally" nationalize its oil industry, without first paying a very hefty fee.
Are solutions other than nationalization available to The Bahamas? Yes. In order to grasp the options available, The Bahamas should bring in a consultant to determine its leverage and strategy options for pursuing oil negotiations and exploration. I trained under Dr. Charles Chatterje, who is an expert adviser to countries working with multinational enterprises; he would be an excellent choice for consultation.
Much of the plan to drill for oil in The Bahamas hinges on the finding of oil in Cuba. Before The Bahamas renews any lease with a foreign company, it should wait and see if oil is located in Cuba. Cuba is currently in the process of drilling for oil and results as to oil findings are expected within the next few months.
Should oil be located in Cuba, other than completely nationalizing the industry, The Bahamas could require for 50 percent of the foreign company to be owned by The Bahamas government. At the very least, The Bahamas should renegotiate any contracts it has signed and increase its royalties to 50 percent, as the royalties currently asked for are low by industry standards.
It is hard to imagine how The Bahamas placed itself in this unenviable position. At a time when the price of oil is at an all time high and Cuba is about to discover oil on The Bahamas' doorstep, it has agreed to allow a foreign multinational company to exploit its oil for a small royalty share of the profits. It's not rocket science that if Cuba strikes oil, The Bahamas will strike oil also. It is abundantly clear that privatization of natural resources, such as oil, are a thing of the past, an antiquity of the colonial era. The true asset being exploited by multinationals in The Bahamas is not our oil, but our ignorance.
Malaysia-based conglomerate Genting Group; China State Construction and Engineering Corporation; Inter-Energy, a Cayman-based company; Texas-based Caribbean Power Partners and Bahamas-based Northern Bahamas Utilities Holdings Company (NBU), along with U.S.-based Pike corporation and PowerSecure are among the companies who paid the $25,000 fee to participate in the request for proposal for the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, Guardian Business has been reliably informed.
While a confidentiality clause in the terms of their participation has stopped much information from being released to the public on who is involved in the process, this newspaper has been told by several sources close to the matter that Genting, China State Construction and Engineering, Inter-Energy and Caribbean Power Partners were interested primarily in being involved on the generation side, while Pike, who was partnering with NBU, and PowerSecure were seeking the transmission and distribution contract.
The Bahamian group, NBU, a utility engineering and consulting firm composed of four former management and engineering employees of Grand Bahama Power Company, is reported to have exited the process, according to several sources close to the process, as has the Genting Group.
Northern Bahamas Utilities had initially partnered with PowerSecure, but was removed from the submission after NBU is understood to have determined that it would also enter into a partnership with Pike.
understands that with Pike and NBU now out of the process, this may just leave PowerSecure in the running for the management contract to take over BEC's transmission and distribution functions and assets, which will be transferred into a new company.
Carlton Bosfield, president of NBU, yesterday declined to comment on his involvement in the BEC RFP process, including whether he remains involved.
His exit, however, would fit with recent comments made by Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who indicated that no Bahamian companies were involved in the RFP process, after one fell out in the second stage.
PowerSecure's Senior Vice President for Investor Relations and Corporate Communications John Bluth yesterday declined to comment on any participation by PowerSecure in the RFP process, which calls upon participating companies to be bound by a non-disclosure agreement.
Guardian Business yesterday received mixed signals as to whether KPMG has submitted its final recommendations to the government on which company should be treated as "preferred bidders" in the BEC reform process. While these recommendations are believed to be imminent, enabling the government to move into the negotiation phase, it could not be confirmed if they have yet been put forward.
Based on information received by this newspaper so far, recommendations on the transmission and distribution side will be more straightforward, given the exit of Pike and their partner, NBU, from the process. Meanwhile, on the generation side, three companies could still be in the running.
Bidding for transmission and distribution responsibilities, PowerSecure is a publicly-listed North-Carolina-based sustainable energy company. It made itself known to the Bahamian public prior to the BEC RFP process began in mid-August in an interview with Guardian Business in which it touted its "smart grid" solution with "distributed energy" that would see smaller-scale "firm solar" power generation throughout The Bahamas.
PowerSecure Chief Sales Officer Mark Martyak said at that time, which was prior to the government issuing the redefined RFP, that PowerSecure's intention was to take advantage of The Bahamas' abundant solar resources, while backing this up with diesel or natural gas-powered generation.
Guardian Business understands that among the "core competencies" highlighted by PowerSecure as relevant to its bid to take over transmission and distribution responsibilities - these include having installed over 1,600 miles of T&D lines in the last five years; having 300 commercial vehicles involved in construction and maintenance of power lines, most of which are based in South Florida; serving numerous U.S. utilities; having over 1,500MWs of distributed generation capacity installed and controlled on a "turnkey basis" for U.S. utility demand response and load management purposes; and specializing in utility scale solar power, among other factors.
On the generation side, the Genting Group is best known for their investment in the resort sector, in particular in Bimini, in the form of the currently controversial Resorts World Bimini project.
That project saw the Malaysia-based conglomerate purchase the former Bimini Bay Resort, and swiftly begin to significantly expand the development.
The company's plans to build a ferry terminal on the island are now the subject of a legal action by the Bimini Blue Coalition, which hopes to obtain an injunction and a judicial review of the project in light of concerns as to whether permits were properly obtained, and potential damage to the surrounding environment.
The multinational company is primarily focused on the leisure and hospitality sector, but does have some experience in power generation.
China State Construction and Engineering Corporation is a state-owned Chinese company that primarily focuses on large-scale construction projects. They are presently best known as the parent company of Baha Mar general contractor, China Construction America.
Guardian Business understands that they have also been involved in installing significant generation capacity globally.
Caribbean Power Partners, led by Texan principal, Taylor Cheek, also came forward prior to the official launch of the redefined BEC RFP process, touting their $700 million proposal for a power plant in Nassau that they suggested could have $15.4 billion impact on the Bahamian economy over a 25-year span.
Their build/own/operate solution, in partnership with Fluor Corporation, a major power plant construction company which has installed the largest volume of generation capacity globally of all of the entities bidding, would have seen the company become an independent power producer selling power back to BEC as a means of reducing energy costs. It is not clear how their proposal has evolved since they entered the RFP process.
Inter-Energy, meanwhile, is one of the largest investors in the power sector of the Dominican Republic, and describes itself as a "renewable energy pioneer" in the country where it established its first wind generation park.
The company's website sites plans to leverage its experience and expansion in the Dominican Republic in order to enter other markets in the Caribbean and Latin American region.
COLLEGE Council Chairman Alfred Sears has challenged The College of The Bahamas community to envision the opportunities that exist for the institution to leverage the skills of its constituents in order to achieve financial sustainability for the proposed University of The Bahamas.
A new online brokerage is looking to triple its staff complement and move to a 4,000-square-foot office space in the up-and-coming Elizabeth on Bay complex.
SureTrader.com, established in December of last year, has already doubled its staff to 9.
That number could be as high as 30 by the end of this year, according to Guy Gentile, the CEO of SureTrader.com. With just 30 active accounts in January, that number has mushroomed. The brokerage now handles more than 620.
Gentile, who is also the creator of SpeedTrader.com, the U.S. online trading broker with $20 million per year in annual revenue, said the 700-square-foot office in the British American Financial Center off Bay Street West is getting a bit cramped.
The move to Elizabeth on Bay marks yet another major tenant for the newly-renovated development and signals a further revitalization of the East Bay Street area.
"We are hitting our goals and made a profit for the first time in our three months here in The Bahamas," Gentile said.
"We will be relocated to a bigger space in the next six to eight weeks. Our staff has grown to nine people and we expect it to be between 20 to 30 by year end."
The goal, he said, is to "bring Wall Street to Bay Street". The brokerage is currently facilitating as many as 1,500 trades every day.
The growth is consistent with the CEO's claims back in January, when he told Guardian Business he plans to be the largest trader in the country within six months.
"We actually haven't pushed that hard yet," he explained. "We are now on track though for 4,000 customers in 12 months."
At this rate, he said four new hires each month is possible to meet the demand. In terms of hiring, Gentile added that his strategy is to bring on Bahamians with international education or experience. Candidates with a background in technology and networking are preferable, Gentile explained, because much of what SureTrader.com does is providing support for investors.
As an attractive offshore trading hub to short sell penny stocks, the brokerage removes many of the regulations governing traders in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
SureTrader.com is not subject to the Pattern Day Trade Rule. Imposed by U.S. firms, investors with less than $25,000 are prevented from performing more than three trades in any five-day rolling period.
It also offers a wide margin of leverage to its clients. Scanning the company's client profiles, Gentile noted that the majority of his clients have between three to five years of trading experience. Unlike its American counterparts, this brokerage aims to capture a wider market of investors.
"With us, they can put in $5,000 and have similar buying power. It makes business sense for the trader. Less money means less risk. I know for a fact you don't need $25,000 to be a successful day trader," he said.
Gentile attributes much of the firm's success to affiliates.
Timothy Sykes, an author, educator and celebrity Wall Street enthusiast, is one of the company's more important allies. He sends his pupils to the online platform.
"Most people, if they are willing to listen to you to buy and sell, will probably be wiling to listen on where to trade," he told Guardian Business. "In traditional marketing, you spend money up front and hope it will turn into business. When someone is referring you in business, we are helping them also."
A veteran of the brokerage business for 15 years, SureTrader.com markets primarily to tourists and individuals that live in The Bahamas but possess other nationalities.
With the multi-billion dollar Baha Mar project set to open its doors later this year, the Ministry of Financial Services is eyeing high-net-worth Asians in an effort to strengthen the country's investment funds business.Following a trip to New York last week, Financial Services Minister Ryan Pinder confirmed to Guardian Business that he met with a prominent law firm that represents a number of these individuals and which is looking at the possibility of operating in The Bahamas, given the proximity to the United States. He pointed out how "a lot" of investment funds are managed from northeastern cities like New York and Connecticut."That's certainly something that we're committed to and look forward to developing. The Bahamas could be a platform for many of [his] clientele from China to conduct business and manage their assets," he said."Given the exposure that Baha Mar is giving The Bahamas, it presents us with an opportunity that we leverage, using those assets to further develop the financial services in China, especially with the cooperation of the senior practitioners, along with their legal and investment advisors who primarily may be in New York."While not revealing who the firm is, he did say that it is world-renowned and multinational. In the meantime, Pinder said he continues to encourage industry stakeholders to look to the U.S. to advance their business, whether it's investment funds or wealth management."I had an opportunity to speak with some senior practitioners that have a number of high-net-worth Asian/Chinese clientele who are very interested in working closely with The Bahamas to provide a platform to attract Asian persons to The Bahamas, not only to utilize the country to manage their assets but to even move to The Bahamas and be able to base some of their business activities from within The Bahamas," he explained."While in New York, I took the opportunity to set up a number of meetings with some attorneys and other relevant financial services practitioners. And it was very encouraging to know that these practitioners wanted to work in partnership with The Bahamas to develop products and platforms to attract high net worth Chinese persons to The Bahamas."Pinder also addressed the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists' International Financial Crime Conference & Exhibition at the Marriott Marquis while in New York. That two-day conference ended last Friday.