Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Barita founder to bow out after transition

Published:Wednesday | August 9, 2017 | 8:00 AMSteven Jackson
Chairman Rita Humphries-Lewin stands next to the Barita sign at the company's headquarters in New Kingston in this May 2017 file photo.
Chairman of Barita Investments Limited, Rita Humphries-Lewin.
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Barita founder Rita Humphries-Lewin has enough voting power to swing a yes vote on a bid for majority control of the firm she founded 40 years ago, a takeover offer that is currently under review by the company's board, but the deal would also be subject to regulatory approval.

Humphries-Lewin told Gleaner Business on Tuesday that she expects to remain part of the company through any ownership transition, but did not put a period around it.

Her comment appears to anticipate a positive vote on the company's sale to the unnamed suitor and approval by the Financial Services Commission.

"It would be smart of them to keep me on for some time," said Humphries-Lewin, but notes that she plans to retire from the spotlight at the publicly traded company after the transition.

"We are celebrating our 40th anniversary, and I am looking for my way out," she said.

Humphries-Lewin founded Barita in 1977 and remains its chairman. She owns at least 76 per cent of the company.

Although Barita is Jamaica's oldest stockbrokerage, the company itself did not list on the Jamaica Stock Exchange until 2010. The BIL stock currently traded Tuesday at $8.77, valuing the company at $3.9 billion. The price of the stock has shot up by almost two dollars since the takeover bid was disclosed.

Barita is a primary dealer and a cambio dealer operating with a staff complement of more than 80 professionals from offices in New Kingston, Mandeville and Montego Bay. The company remains one of the few financial entities founded and led by a woman.

Humphries-Lewin told Gleaner Business that for nearly 20 year,s Barita has been in various discussions with prospective investors on an outright sale or partnership, but the timing just was not right for a deal.

That changed last week when Barita advised the JSE that it received an offer to acquire majority shareholdings in the company. It added that the offer is under consideration by the company's board.

 

LARGEST BLOCK OF SHARES

 

Shareholders, among whom Humphries-Lewin holds the largest block of shares, will have to approve the deal, but a date is yet to be set for that vote.

Humphries-Lewin said at least 51 per cent of the company would be sold, pending approval, but otherwise declined to give specifics. Barita's shareholder equity stands at $2.86 billion, with $15.9 billion in total assets as at March 2017.

Humphries-Lewin would not name the prospective buyer.

"We cannot say anything now. It is difficult to disclose anything at this time as we are a publicly traded company and information has to come out formally," she said.

Barita remains profitable, but its half-year results were impacted by impairment charges on an investment in a start-up enterprise. Profit fell 11 per cent in the period to $58 million, but would have climbed 50 per cent without the impairment charge.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com