Tue | Sep 26, 2017

JAS eyes deal for Denbigh with UCC, weighs junior market listing

Published:Wednesday | September 6, 2017 | 9:00 AMAvia Collinder
UCC Group executive chairman, Dr Winston Adams.
President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, Norman Grant.
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The Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) expects to sign a joint venture agreement with the University of the Common-wealth Caribbean (UCC) that will see the development of a mid-island campus at the Denbigh property in Clarendon.

JAS President Norman Grant also disclosed that the society's board will be weighing a plan at their meeting this month to list Denbigh, the home of its annual agriculture show, on the junior market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange.

It would be targeting $500 million through IPO for the expansion of facilities on the Denbigh showground and the creation of a centre of excellence through UCC, Grant told Gleaner Business.

Meanwhile, Dr Winston Adams, group executive chairman of UCC, says the campus to be developed would launch with 15 bachelor's degree programmes in year one, as well as vocational courses.

The Denbigh property spans 50 acres, some of which is rented to earn income for JAS. Rental income for the JAS was approximately $6 million for the year ended March 2017.

Grant said one of the most recent initiatives was a partnership with state bus company JUTC, for the facilities at the Denbigh showground to be used as a layover for the newly launched rural bus services, effective September 4.

The JAS also rents the exhibition hall on property to God's Family Ministry for services, and discussions are under way for the facilities at the showground to be rented to the Denbigh High School to house its football team.

"All are commercial arrangements that will benefit Denbigh, the JAS, our farmers and our partners," Grant said. The cost of leases and rentals under the new agreements was not disclosed.

Dr Adams, who hails from the Clarendon capital of May Pen, says the proposed Denbigh deal is an opportunity for his Kingston-based school to further expand its footprint and deepen ties with the parish.

"I am a former resident of May Pen grew up there and so I have had a connection with the parish for many years. Besides, the UCC already has a small May Pen campus for many years located on Chapelton Road," he said.

"The Denbigh showground, which is at least some 50 acres in land mass, is a historical landmark in Jamaica for 65 years and provides a perfect backdrop, centrally located, safe and convenient to establish a centre of excellence targeting hundreds of youth in Clarendon."

JAS and UCC are to sign a non-binding memorandum of understanding today, Grant said, describing it as a "first step".

Adams said the proposed centre of excellence will initially include an expanded UCC May Pen campus and a branch of UCC's business process outsourcing Global Knowledge Process Solutions Inc, and would offer call centre training through UCC's Contact Centre Academy of Jamaica.

"The UCC has taken the decision to vertically integrate its business model by diversifying its products and services to meet the needs of its customers, who are largely working professionals and also for wealth creation and added value for them," Adams said.

He, too, is finalising plans for the prospective listing of another UCC Group subsidiary on the JSE, called UCC Online.

At Denbigh, the UCC will not seek to build new facilities initially, but retrofit the existing space. However, a new campus is expected to be constructed over the long term.

As to the size of the operation, Adams said it is projected that initially UCC will begin with 1,000 full-time students and 500 part-time for the degree programmes, while the vocational side would cater to around 250 full-time enrollees.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com