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Feb 22, 2021

$2.5M in Profits for B.T.L. in 2020 is a Paltry Sum

A new board of directors for Belize Telemedia Limited was constituted in December of last year with former business senator Mark Lizarraga at its helm.  Over the weekend, the telecoms company hosted a virtual gathering of its shareholders where an annual report was presented on its finances.  The numbers are grim, to say the least.  Despite massive investments in improving services, B.T.L. only realized a meager profit of two and a half million dollars this fiscal year.  It’s far from good news for local investors who presumably expected more in dividends.  According to Chairman Lizarraga, the company is also facing harsh economic headwinds with the COVID-19 pandemic.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Mark Lizarraga, Chairman, B.T.L.

“While our investments in capital, capital investments have been increasing, and while sales have increased, expenses have outpaced and have caused a negative impact on profits.  So the profits have been going down.”


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The fiscal performance of Belize Telemedia Limited, the largest of three government-owned utility companies, was the centerpiece of an annual general meeting on Saturday.  It is the first to be held virtually since the COVID-19 pandemic began wreaking havoc a year ago.  The AGM was also led by a new chairman, former senator Mark Lizarraga.


Mark Lizarraga

Mark Lizarraga

“Getting to this AGM this year, proved to be a little challenging because we had to make amendments to our articles and to follow the legal script we had to give twenty-one days notice for the first meeting where we passed resolutions to even be able to hold meetings virtually.  As you know, given the regulations for COVID we would only have been able to meet with ten people.”


In order to host such a gathering of shareholders amid the pandemic, an extraordinary general meeting was held, followed by a confirmatory session to validate the passage of resolutions specific to the circumstances of the proposed AGM.  All that hassle just to announce that the company was in dire financial straits.


Mark Lizarraga

“Several things contributed to this, one of which, of course, we’ve had some major issues with our billing system which has given us a huge receivables and we’ve had to make adjustments to the way we account for those receivables and it has affected profitability of the company since 2018, 2019, 2020 and it’s going to have an impact on us this year as well.”


Over a ten-year period between 2010 and 2019, B.T.L. invested four hundred and sixty-eight million dollars in its 4G LTE Advanced Mobile Network, its Fiber to Home service, as well as a submarine fiber optic cable to San Pedro.  These investments required substantial payouts which exhausted the company’s cash reserves while increasing its long-term loan portfolio.  This, in turn, led to the use of overdraft facilities.


Mark Lizarraga

“The people of Belize have invested substantially in this company and our presentation goes to show that we have to perform at a certain rate to be able to pay back these liabilities, to pay back our loans, to pay back the investments.  We showed that we have to have a reverse in these operational expenses.  They cannot continue to climb and we’ve shown what the company has done to reverse that trend.”


B.T.L.’s network infrastructure has seen significant growth, however, the increase in revenues annually has wavered and in some years been negative.  Likewise, the fall in prices on services as a result of competition from SMART, other Internet Service Providers and cable operators has benefited consumers.  On the other hand, it has severely affected B.T.L.’s bottom line.


Mark Lizarraga

“If we had continued to perform at the average rate of performance of the company, we would have, the people of Belize would have seen their investment returned to them in sixty-five years.  That is unacceptable.  So we’ve set targets and goals as mandated by the government now for us to turn the company around to become more efficient and to start paying back the people of Belize for this humongous investment that they’ve made in this company.”


That humongous investment, as Chairman Lizarraga puts it, has only yielded two and a half million dollars in profits for the present fiscal cycle.


Mark Lizarraga

“We’re not in a position to be grandiose at this stage, so the dividends declared this year, the profits declared this year were only about two point five million dollars, as I said, after extensive efforts to cut costs, to save some twenty-two million dollars in costs.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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