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Stabroek News

Solutrea withdraws million-dollar venture
published: Tuesday | July 31, 2007

Athaliah Reynolds, Staff Reporter

The country's coffers received a massive $500 million blow yesterday after Solutrea Jamaica Ltd., the last company to be granted a mobile licence, announced that it would be pulling out of Jamaica.

Keith Walker, CEO of the telecommunications firm, made the announcement yesterday during a press briefing at the Terra Nova Hotel, St. Andrew.

Mr. Walker said the company's decision to withdraw from the country was due to the recent controversy surrounding the granting of a mobile Spectrum licence by the Ministry of Technology.

He said the 'politicisation' and harsh comments in the media had caused company shareholders to conclude that the timing of its Jamaica project was not favourable.

"A total of US$50 million had been earmarked for our initial investment. Unfortunately, the project has become the subject of much controversy, raising even questions regarding our corporate integrity and bona fides," he said.

In his statement, Mr. Walker said after several discussions and negotiations, Solutrea was awarded a Spectrum mobile licence in May with the agreement that the company would satisfy two conditions before the activation of service.

He said his company fully intended to pay for its licence on the completion of a due diligence review by the Ministry of Finance's Financial Investigations Unit,and the certification of clean frequencies by the Spectrum Management Authority. The company had, in fact, written a cheque for BDS$15 million to the Government.

Repayment to be made

The company's CEO said he has advised Minister Phillip Paulwell of his position to withdraw from Jamaica and also denied speculations that the licence was granted because of some kind of preferential treatment.

Mr. Walker also said the telecommunications licence would be returned unconditionally and the Ministry of Technology is expected to return the monies previously made as payments.

He was, however, unable to give a specific date as to when the minister was informed of the company's decision to give back the licence and the process involved in the ministry's repayment of the money in question.

He, however, said after the elections the company would assess its options in Jamaica regarding if and how to proceed with its other businesses.

Answering questions regarding the relationship between Solutrea Jamaica and attorney-at-law Minette Palmer, Mr. Walker said she is not on the board of directors of the company, but rather played the role of legal adviser.

He, however, admitted that the firm and Ms. Palmer's law office shared the same listed address, but side-tracked from answering questions of the implications of the connection.

athaliah.reynolds@gleanerjm.com

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