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Mar 26, 2018

The Billion-Dollar Case for B.T.L.

Late Friday evening, Prime Minister Dean Barrow wrapped up a marathon two days of debate over the 2018-2019 General Revenue and Appropriation Bill in the National Assembly. He opened the first part of his address by responding to allegations concerning the state of affairs at Belize Telemedia Limited. During his Budget presentation, Prime Minister Barrow assured that Belize Telemedia Limited was already worth a billion dollars, and under Belizean stewardship, it would make billions more in profits for the nation. This is despite the most recent valuation of the company in 2016-2017 being just two hundred and forty-two million dollars and net profits averaging just twenty million over the last three years. As proof of the former claim, he cited the valuation of an international firm concerning figures up to 2025 if the Accommodation Agreement was followed through. For the latter he turned to the 2017 valuation of the company, adding in other assets and capital expenditure.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The projected profits as certified by PricewaterhouseCoopers, who were engaged by the Ashcroft Group, prepared by an Alistair McPherson, who is a partner in the London office of this international firm – these are the profits that with the Accommodation Agreement, the Ashcroft-controlled B.T.L. was going to make if we had not nationalized that company and repatriated those profits. 2009: thirty million, five hundred and seventeen [thousand dollars]. 2010: thirty-six million, nine hundred and thirteen [thousand dollars]. 2011: forty million, six hundred [and] thirty-eight [thousand dollars]. 2012: forty-four million [seven hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars]. 2013: fifty-two million, two hundred and eighty-four [thousand dollars]. 2014: fifty-six million, six [hundred and] thirty-six [thousand dollars]. 2015: sixty-three million, three [hundred and] forty [thousand dollars]. And it goes on to 2025, making for a grand total of one billion, two hundred and eighty-four thousand, one hundred and seventy-seven [dollars]. I have the Pricewaterhouse valuation document here! That is what, under the Accommodation Agreement, if we had not stepped in, this unregulated monopoly that they gave to their puppet master, was going to cost the Belizean people. And remember, Madam Speaker, now the nationalized B.T.L., whatever profits are made stay here at home for the Belizean people.  The B.T.L. valuation as of March thirty-first, 2017, in millions of dollars: property, plant and equipment, six hundred and eight million, nine [hundred and] forty-four [thousand dollars]. Current assets: inventories, fifteen million, seven fifty-three; receivables, fifty-three million one thirty-six; cash and cash equivalents, fifteen million, nine twenty-five, computers, software and so on, twenty-eight million; the ARCOS submarine project. I don’t know what kind of a businessman you are if you don’t add in all these things. They end up with a value of total assets of seven hundred and twenty-nine million, seven hundred and fifty-eight [thousand dollars] – not quite the billion that I said. But when you start to add to that the CapEx: you talk about the kinds of profits that B.T.L. made, and if it’s twenty million dollars a year, how many years it will take us to recoup what we spent for it? Don’t only talk about the profits that we pay out in dividends; talk about the fact that the earnings of the repatriated, nationalized B.T.L. are so robust, that we have been able to spend in 2010, sixty million, one ninety-seven in capital expenditure. In 2011, twenty-two million, seven-thirty-two; in 2012, twenty-seven million, nine sixty; 2013, thirty-two million, three ten; 2014, thirty-seven million, seven thirty nine; 2015, thirty-five million, six sixty-seven; 2016, forty million, three-oh-seven; 2017, seventy-two million and fifteen, and in 2018, we are going to spend ninety million dollars in capital infrastructure, to make this company absolutely the best in Central America and the Caribbean.”

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