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Dec 2, 2004

Courts: parent company?s woes won?t hurt Bz.

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While the energy sector is showing promise, developments in the retailing across the Atlantic are causing a few jitters here. Courts PLC, the parent company of Courts Belize Limited, has put itself into administration, a form of bankruptcy, saying basically that its bankers have pulled the plug on its eighty-nine stores in the United Kingdom and the heavily indebted company will have to reorganise or be sold. What effect will that have on its operations in the Caribbean and elsewhere? According to Courts Belize Managing Director Keith Slater, none at all.

Keith Slater, Managing Director, Courts Belize

?Courts U.K. is going through some difficulties right now; that?s true. Business has been very tough in the U.K. market generally over a number of years, particularly in the retail sector. They?ve been struggling and trying various ways to turn the business around over the last three or four years. But to this point in time, they have not made a success of turning the business around and it gone into a stage really I think where they?ve gone into a full administration which means basically they have recovery specialists into the company with a view to looking at all aspects of the company, of how it?s run and how it can be affectively improved.?

Stewart Krohn

?But the operation did shut down??

Keith Slater

?The operation is shut down for–I think– two days, this may even be the second day but as I said, we are some distance away at the moment. We don?t have day to day contact with the U.K. It?s not that often we speak to them and this came as an unpleasant surprise for everybody. It was true we knew the company was struggling, but companies go through good times and bad.?

Stewart Krohn

?Key question, how does that affect your operation??

Keith Slater

?Well I am pleased to say it doesn?t affect us because we are part of Courts Caribbean in the Americas, which is a company in creation as we speak, where we have regionalised ourselves. This incorporates all the Caribbean companies with Jamaica probably being our closest sister company. We are part of a very strong part and in fact I believe that we are the strongest part of the whole group. This while very sad and disappointing to say that you?ve gone down this road would not affect us on going because the companies in this region are thriving and Belize is included.?

It may be a case of bad timing, but while the red ink is flowing in London, the Caribbean arm of Courts is coincidentally floating a bond issue. The share for the Belize market is a hefty twenty-eight point four million Belize dollars.

Keith Slater

?Well the bond issue is a regional programme, being a minister by RTT in Trinidad and this is way of what we would call ring fencing in becoming self-sufficient financially from the U.K. parent company. This was work in progress and still is work in progress and it?s still going to happen. It?s a bit delayed until some guarantees from the U.K. are saved and we are absolutely certain that?s going to happen probably within the next eight weeks.?

Stewart Krohn

?For those people not acquainted with high finance, myself included, is a bond issue just a cheaper way to borrow money instead of going to a bank and borrowing it??

Keith Slater

?Well I?m like you. I am not a financier, but a bond issues is way of people investing–I think would be correct–of having a stokehold in a company in the local region. The bonds have been issued throughout the Caribbean. I think primarily in five territories if I?m not mistaken; Belize being one and we were very please of being asked to go into that. Because when the bankers were here, they were quite surprised that a lot of people had money to invest and wanted to invest. There are already some merchants banks and so forth coming into Belize and looking at the country as an Economy that actually is growing. But they are very limited to where they can actually invest their money.?

Slater went on to assure loyal customers that Courts is here for the long haul and he is optimistic about the future.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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