Tue | Jan 19, 2021

Gov't decision taken on Digicel-Claro merger

Published:Thursday | August 25, 2011 | 12:00 AM

IT APPEARS that the Government has approved the merger of telecommunications firms Digicel and Claro.

Daryl Vaz, minister with responsibility for information, said during Wednesday's post-Cabinet press conference that the only thing which remains to be done now is the imposition of conditions for consumer protection.

"The negotiations are far advanced. A decision has been made, but the decision has conditionalities that are still being discussed and negotiated," the minister said.

Vaz said it was likely that Prime Minister Bruce Golding will speak to the issue in Parliament next Tuesday.

"Parliament reconvenes on Tuesday and, based on where the negotiations are now, there is a likelihood that a statement could be issued in relation to that particular matter in Parliament on Tuesday," he said.

Earlier this year, Digicel announced a planned deal with América Móvil to acquire its Claro business in Jamaica, and to sell to América Móvil its businesses in El Salvador and Honduras.

By law, the minister with responsibility for communications must approve the merger. Vaz had signalled earlier this month that the decision as to whether the merger would be allowed was imminent.

"I would be comfortable to say it is at the stage where we are expecting the final comments from the agencies - the Spectrum Management Authority, the Office of Utilities Regulation and the Fair Trading Commission - in another week or two," Vaz said.

"It is not something that is open and closed. It has major considerations in terms of competitiveness and also consumer benefits and, therefore, it is not something that can be rushed or will be rushed, as it is something that has serious implications if not properly handled," added Vaz.

Since the intended merger was announced, stakeholders, including telecoms firm LIME, and the opposition spokesman on technology, Phillip Paulwell, expressed fear that the move could lead to the establishment of a monopoly.

But yesterday, Vaz suggested that the issue of market dominance was the matter being worked on by the Government.

"That is why I said the prime minister will speak to it in a fulsome way based on not only the actual merger that is in front of us, but in terms of the effects of what is to be done in terms of making sure that competition remains and that the consumers are the beneficiary," Vaz said.