Tue | Jul 17, 2018

CLICO looking to do business again in Guyana

Published:Wednesday | April 5, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Lawrence Duprey of CL Financial Group.

Trinidad-based conglomerate, CL Financial, the parent of Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO), is seeking to renew its relationship with Guyana, but the main opposition is demanding that the company not be welcomed back.

Last week, the Ministry of Finance issued a statement following a meeting between Finance Minister Winston Jordan and CL Financial chairman Lawrence Duprey indicating that the Trinidadian businessman "would like to renew his relationship with Guyana as well as publicly apologise to its people for the collapse of CLICO Guyana".

CL Financial and its flagship subsidiary CLICO were rescued by the Trinidad & Tobago government in 2009, amid a collapse of the regional operations. Trinidad poured millions into the operations to keep CLICO afloat. Late last year, Trinidadian media reported that Duprey and other CL Financial shareholders had raised sufficient funds to repay the government. Those reports put the debt as high as TT$23 billion.


Millions lost


Caribbean countries, including Guyana, have said their citizens lost millions of dollars in the collapse of CLICO and they have been moving to establish new entities to provide services that the regional insurance giant had once provided.

The Ministry of Finance statement quoted Duprey as saying that CL Financial will try to make amends for around US$40 million debt owed mainly to the National Insurance Scheme.

"Duprey, the majority shareholder of CL Financial, also informed Minister Jordan that his company is interested in investing in several areas here, including providing solar energy at competitive prices, affordable housing, clay brick and solar for housing as well as introduce a financial model that will generate savings and alleviate poverty," the statement said.

Jordan has informed Duprey that he will apprise Cabinet of their discussions and that future engagements could be conducted on parallel tracks, that is, discussion on recovering monies owed by CL Financial, and investment in Guyana.

But speaking at a news conference on Monday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said that "we always welcome investors into this country but we can't deal with the CLICO matter anecdotally".

He told reporters that the government has at its disposal in excess of US$30 million to settle all outstanding debts owed by CLICO.

"The money sitting there can be used; they (CLICO) may not have to put in much more," Jagdeo said, noting that the former administration had managed to secure the funds by disposing of CLICO assets.

Jagdeo said CL Financial must pay off its debts in Guyana before being allowed to do business. He also urged that the administration guard against the practice of interlocking directors, which contributed to the collapse of the company in the first place.