Wed | Dec 7, 2016

CWC closes Columbus deal, to roll out US$1.5b investment plan

Published:Wednesday | April 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Phil Bentley, CEO of Cable and Wireless Communications.

Grace Silvera, group director of communications and culture at Cable & Wireless Communications Plc (CWC), said Tuesday that while "certain regulatory requirements are still outstanding" in some markets, the company will press ahead with the merger of Columbus' operations.

However, "We have made it clear that we will not merge any overlap activities in markets until we have the appropriate approvals. We will proceed, however, to release investment and integrate our activities in the countries where we do have approval," said Silvera.

"This includes some of the ECTEL markets," she added.

CWC announced Tuesday that it has

completed the US$1.85 billion acquisition of 100 per cent of the equity of Columbus International Inc. Including debt, the overall acquisition is valued at US$3.025 billion.

CWC chief executive officer, Phil Bentley, said the company would begin immediately to roll out the US$1.5 billion of investments planned under the integration.

Jamaica has already approved the merger of local assets, and Trinidad also signalled on March 13 that it would approve the deal once CWC agreed to divest its 49 per cent stake in Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago. CWC has said it would comply.

integration plans approved

On Friday, Barbados also announced its conditional approval of the merger, but the decision of other ECTEL jurisdictions - Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines - were still pending.

"Most of the markets we operate in have approved our integration plans and, therefore, today we can start to release some of the US$1.5 billion investment monies we have set aside to provide our customers with an unrivalled telecommunications experience ... ," said Bentley.

In markets where regulatory approval is outstanding, no funds will be spent until approval is granted, the company indicated.

CWC said the integration of the companies will involve a review of all brands, including LIME and Flow, but he said no decision has yet been made about how these would be treated.

He said the merger adds "significant fibre-optic submarine backhaul and terrestrial broadband and TV capability" to CWC's mobile and legacy copper networks, and that the complimentary B2B divisions in each company "can now offer geographical focus and a wider product offering in the faster-growing Latin American markets."

CWC operates in 16 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America under main brands Mas Movil in Panama, LIME in most of its Caribbean markets, BTC in The Bahamas and Cable & Wireless in Seychelles.

Columbus operates in Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, St Vincent & the Grenadines, St Lucia, and CuraÁao under the brand name Flow, and in Antigua under the brand name Karib Cable. It also operates Columbus Business Solutions.

Its subsidiary, Columbus Networks, operates throughout 42 countries in the greater Caribbean, Central American and Andean regions.

Under the merger deal, three Columbus shareholders - Brandon Paddick, John Risley and John Malone - will take a 36 per cent stake in CWC. However, Jamaican-Canadian investor Michael Lee Chin, who owned 13 per cent of Columbus through Portland Private Equity, is expected to be paid in cash.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com