Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Jamaica Beverages trustee to propose rehab plan

Published:Wednesday | August 9, 2017 | 8:00 AMAvia Collinder
Wilfred Baghaloo, trustee for Jamaica Beverages Limited and director at PwC Jamaica.

Trustee for Jamaica Beverages Limited, Wilfred Baghaloo, says he is restructuring the company's finances under bankruptcy protection, and would soon put a proposal to creditors for rehabilitation of the business.

Baghaloo, a director of PwC Jamaica, stressed that his appointment as trustee does not mean the company is insolvent. It comes more than four years after JBL acquired the assets of Jamaica Citrus Growers Limited, JCG, and obtained the rights to produce the Juciful brand of juices under licence.

Last year, SM Jaleel, the Trinidad parent of JBL, confirmed that it was scaling back the Jamaican operation, which involved outsourcing its local distribution and locking down the Naggo Head plant in Portmore, St Catherine.

JBL was supposed to continue its manufacturing operations at Bog Walk, St Catherine, where it produces Juciful juices and milks as well as Fruta juice drink. The latter brand is packaged under agreement with its parent company.

"As the trustee appointed, please note that the appointment does not mean the company is insolvent as is defined by the Companies Act and other typical stereotype definitions," said Baghaloo.

"I was not appointed a liquidator or a receiver. Rather, I was appointed to oversee the company's financial affairs for a short period of time with the objective of restructuring the company's financial arrangements for cash flow and other sustainable purposes."

He said a rehabilitation plan would be put to creditors "in due course".

JBL filed for bankruptcy protection following a May 22 Supreme Court award to creditor Janet Edwards for US$3.1 million plus $66 million. The Office of Insolvency subsequently appointed Baghaloo as trustee.

"The judgment is high, over $400 million," said Baghaloo. "It will create many challenges for employees going forward."

JCG was in receivership when JBL acquired its assets, including lands and a factory at Bog Walk, St Catherine, in 2013 under a $1 billion deal that included upgrades to the operation.

Baghaloo says all operations at JBL continue during the restructuring, and that no staff will be cut. He declined to comment on the size of the company's indebtedness.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com