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PETCOM tops Gov't's divestment priorities

Published:Tuesday | April 28, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding
A Petcom service station in Ocho Rios, St Ann.

Fuelled by the planned changing of gears in the Government's push to divest public assets, attention is being centred on the Petroleum Company of Jamaica Limited (PETCOM).

At the same time, the Caymanas Track Limited (CTL) has signalled that it has cauterised much of the haemorraging in the organisation and has opened its gates to potential investors.

The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), the front-line agency in the drive to privatise public assets, has dispatched an invitation to potential investors through The Sunday Gleaner on the weekend in its bid to attract attention to the viability of PETCOM.

"The DBJ, on behalf of the Government, is seeking investors with suitable financial capacity to participate in the privatisation of PETCOM," stated the advertisement.

It was revealed that PETCOM's business operations include 24 service stations; 14 LPG filling parts and the sale of industrial fuels and lubricants.

At the same time, CTL Chairman Christopher Brown told The Gleaner that a raft of plans have been put in place to improve the image of the facility.

"We have introduced telephone betting, allowing punters and the wider public to make their bets any time anywhere and at their own convenience in races offered by CTL Monday to Sunday," said Brown.

He disclosed that sales have increased on that platform from $300,000 in November 2014 to in excess of $30 million.

Review on the cards

Veneice Pottinger Scott, head of the Public Sector Modernisation Division, has indicated that a review of the divestment programme was on the cards.

In 2009, Patricia Sinclair McCalla, then CEO of the Public Sector Transformation Unit, recommended the merger of 20 entities, the privatisation of 13, the abolition of seven, and for 10 to have their services contracted out.

But recently, Pottinger Scott said her team has been instructed to go back and look at that list and revise it.

"We have to make contact and find out what exactly has happened over the period since then and come up with an assessment of what still makes sense," she said.

Among the public entities up for divestment are the Wallenford Coffee Company (WCC) and commercial assets of the Cocoa Industry Board.

Since it was formed in 2004, the WCC has been experiencing severe financial difficulties, resulting in the company's inability to meet its liabilities.

But by all indications, it is the CTL that appeared to have made inroads in reversing much of its bad fortunes.

The DBJ became the chief implementing agency for GOJ's privatisation programme when it was merged with the National Investment Bank of Jamaica in 2007.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com