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Feb 20, 2017

Selling Utilities’ Shares Was Intended to Open Companies to Public

Last Tuesday, during a press conference held by the People’s United Party, it was revealed that government is considering selling minority shares in the various utilities.  The move, it is widely believed, is an effort to meet its quota for the forthcoming annual budget.  The idea, we are told, is also being frowned upon by members of the ruling party.  According to PM Barrow, the suggestion has been misconstrued entirely and that the sale of shares in B.T.L. and B.E.L. to the Social Security Board was part of an initial consideration to offer more shares to the public.

 

Reporter

“There has also been word that the government is perhaps considering bundling the utilities to see if it can meet the [upcoming] budget through the sale of these particular companies.  Can you speak to us on that?”

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“No.  I think there’s been a great deal of misunderstanding.  After we knew where we were with the size of the nationalization award, you will remember that we did approach S.S.B. with a view to selling some of government’s shares, some more of government’s shares to S.S.B. which we thought would be perfectly consistent with not just the letter of the law.  Remember our constitution requires that government and S.S.B. must own at least fifty-one percent of the shareholding in all the utilities, not just B.T.L., not just B.E.L., but including B.W.S.L.  I think the S.S.B. Board had agreed with our proposal and then we thought about it and we said, you know what, let us keep those shares and try to subsist only on the dividends that the shares will pay us annually.  Well again, things have tightened and so once more we are looking at offering some shares, the sale of some shares in B.E.L. and B.T.L. to S.S.B.  We did go beyond that and we toyed with the notion of a larger offering to the public.  I had said maybe two Independence speeches ago that certainly in B.E.L. I would like to see ten percent offered to the small man.  We did toy with that idea and efforts have been made to talk not just to the small man but to institutional investors, the banks, the insurance companies.  But while it is something that’s been contemplated it is not going to be proceeded with, I think we are going to limit ourselves merely to the sale of the additional shareholdings to S.S.B.   Nobody can have any quarrel with that but if we went beyond that and it turned out that we could not limit further sales to the small man, when you sell to S.S.B. in effect you are selling to the small man.  If it turned out we could not limit ourselves to the small man there would be no way of stopping the institutional investors, with whom we’ve been talking, from purchasing.  It is my sense that the public and certainly those in my party with whom I’ve discussed the idea would not like that.  They would want to see those shares, apart from what has already gone to the small man historically, the rest of those shares kept exclusively for government and S.S.B. and that’s where we are at the current time.”

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