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138 Student Living commissions one third of UWI-Mona dorms

Published:Wednesday | January 27, 2016 | 1:00 AMSteven Jackson
Chairman of John Lee 138 Student Living Jamaica consults with the Deputy General Manager Rose Hamilton, at 138’s first annual general meeting held at Mona Visitor’s Lodge, University of the West Indies on Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Construction firm 138 Student Living Jamaica (138 SL) has put into operation roughly one-third of the planned 1,584 rooms under development at University of the West Indies, Mona (UWI, Mona).

"We now have 504 rooms in operation," said chair John Lee in his presentation at the start-up's first annual general meeting on Tuesday at UWI.

138 SL has concession agreement with UWI, Mona to build and operate student residences spanning 11 new high-rise blocks.

"The first phase, comprising three towers, was completed for the 2015/16 academic year. Students have moved into two towers, while the third will accept residents for the January 2016 semester "and will also facilitate short-term accommodation," Lee stated in the chairman's report in the annual report.

The concession agreement is to last 30 years, but with a potential extension to 65 years. Ownership of the assets will revert to the university after an agreed period. The cost of the project is $4.6 billion at 2014 prices, the annual report adds.

138 Student Living is majority owned by Lee and his wife Marrynette Lee, through a company called K Limited. At the end of last year, Sagicor Group Jamaica announced that connected firm Sagicor Management Funds had acquired a 24.84 per cent stake in the construction company for strategic purposes.

AUDIT COMMITTEE POST

Sagicor's representative will shortly take up a position on the audit committee, but not the board. A vacancy arose last year after 138 SL shareholder Kingsley Thomas quit as director and member of the audit committee.

"As it stands, we do not see much change in the way we conduct our business, but will allow Sagicor time to decide whether a board appointment is one of their requirements. Independent of this, an appointment to the audit and compliance subcommittee will be made before the quarterly statements are issued in February," Lee said.

At the AGM, investors were mainly concerned with understanding the fundamentals of the company.

"The media tend to get things wrong. But there are statements about the resignation of Kingsley Thomas. Is there any truth to this," stated a shareholder who described himself as a long-standing lecturer.

Said Lee: "This is one of the few times the media got it right. Mr Thomas, for personal reasons, from the board".

The meeting also considered an addendum to note 30 of the audited 2015 financials, which clarified the funding of the company. Initially, the note had named JSCD Trustee Services as one of its lenders, which was not correct.

Referencing the addendum, Lee said: "I, as chairman, take full responsibility for the note-content error. This has now been corrected and circulated".

Otherwise, Orette Staple raised concerns about the current losses of the company and enquired about a rough timeline for increased revenues to inform his consideration of whether to become a shareholder.

138 SL made a net loss of $245,000 for the year ending September 2015. Lee explained that only "six weeks of revenues" were booked for the company formed in August 2014. The first set of dorms were commissioned a year later in August and September 2015.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com