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First Heritage, St Thomas credit unions plan merger

Published:Wednesday | December 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Hopeton Morrison, general manager of the St Thomas Co-operative Credit Union.- File
Basil Naar, CEO of First Heritage Co-operative Credit Union.-File
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Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

General manager of the St Thomas Co-operative Credit Union, Hopeton Morrison has confirmed that they were in negotiations to merge with First Heritage Co-operative Credit Union (FHCCU).

"It's a work in progress. We really do not want to discuss it at this time," he told Wednesday Business.

"We are not disposed to disclose details of the proposed merger at this time," said Morrison, adding that "at an appropriate time in the future I will advise you further".

Basil Naar, chief executive officer of First Heritage and former head of Churches Co-operative Credit Union, which in 2012 merged with government worker-based GSB Cooperative Credit Union (GSBCCU), also said he was not yet ready to comment.

"I am reserving comments at this time due to the nature of our process. My comments will come at a later date after certain matters are closed," he said.

The proposed merger with St Thomas Cooperative Credit Union would place First Heritage higher up on the chain of large unions, which now number 42. The sector has grown smaller as more of the commu-nity lenders combine operations in advance of planned supervision by the Bank of Jamaica and concerns about the adequacy of capitalisation.

On August 1, 2012, Churches Co-operative Credit Union merged with GSBCCU under the First Heritage name. The new entity saw a combined membership of over 165,000 and a total asset portfolio of J$8.04 billion.

St Thomas Co-operative Credit Union noted on its website that it was formed on February 1, 1973 from an amalgamation of eight credit unions - Surrey Cane Farmers, Morant Bay, Ducken-field, Arcadia, Airy Castle, Serge Island, Eastern, and Goodyear. The site states that the lender has 20,000 members with just under $1 billion in assets.

The credit union describes itself as a "leader in the small and micro finance sectors", having underwritten varied micro- enterprise development and rural agricultural microenterprise development and financing.

In targetting farmers and rural entrepreneurship, the credit union has partnered with the European Union, the government of the Netherlands in collaboration with the government of Jamaica, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

In its annual report for 2013, FHCCU reported a net surplus of J$103.53 million compared to $54.24 million for 2012, an increase of $49.29 million.

Total assets at December 31, 2013 were $8.95 billion, up from $8.49 billion at December 2012. The year also ended with members' savings totalling $6.17 billion and a loan portfolio of $6.7 billion.

Group capital was $1.73 billion at year end 2013.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com