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Jun 23, 2020

Lord Ashcroft’s Change of Heart in Investing in Belize

The process of finalizing the sale of Scotiabank Belize to Caribbean Investment Holdings is several months away, as the Central Bank, as regulator of the financial sector, does it does its due diligence. Following the announcements by the two parties on Monday, the governor of the Central Bank, Joy Grant, provided assurances that the interest of Belizeans will be safeguarded. The transaction, however, was well over a year in the making, as both parties negotiated the cost of acquiring all local assets from Scotiabank. Employees at Scotia Bank Belize have been secured of their jobs for the next twelve months and the bank continues to operate as usual.    When the Canadian Bank started to refocus in and divest holdings in Caribbean in 2019; there was not much interest on the part of Lord Michael Ashcroft to purchase the bank which has been in operation in Belize since 1968 and merge it with the Belize Bank.  Previous legal wrangling with the Barrow administration had left a bad taste in the mouth of the investor who, at the time, frowned on the idea of spending additional monies on projects in the country.  The landscape is now changing and elections are months away. In an interview on the eve of the announcement of the acquisition on Monday, Lord Ashcroft explained why he is once again ready to do business.

 

Michael Ashcroft

Lord Michael Ashcroft

“Well like in any negotiation, Scotia wanted us to believe that there were three hundred and sixty-two other people interested in this crown jewel and very soon we came to the conclusion that there were not many people that actually either had the resource, the commitment or the money to effect a transaction that Scotia were happy would complete and would get their money at the end of the day.  And so, it was a process of elimination perhaps over a year to get to this particular point and that was the deal that was then struck.  At first, I wasn’t too interested.  I let when First Caribbean exited the country, I made no move to want to merge that operation with the Belize Bank.  I felt both the arguments that I was having with the government, the litigation with the government, that it would only be a fool that would invest further in the country.  However, this time around with an election coming up, a new prime minister on the horizon and the COVID situation and at my age of seventy-four, I want the next few years of my life to contribute as much as I can to the nation of Belize.”


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