Thu | Dec 12, 2019

Jamaica is open for business

Published:Friday | January 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Digicel Jamaica CEO Mark Linehan. - File

Marcella Scarlett, Business Reporter

Mark Linehan, chief executive officer of Digicel Jamaica, is selling the idea of Jamaica as an excellent place to do business, citing the performance of his company in its decade of operation.

"Jamaica is not just viable, but it is an extremely attractive place for domestic companies to thrive and international companies to invest," said Linehan at the Jamaica Stock Exchange's annual investment and capital markets conference in Kingston.

He highlighted as reasons for business success in Jamaica, the island's proximity to North America, the availability of human capital,the native English language, infrastructure developments - noting particularly the airports and seaports and road networks - a liberalised telecommunications industry, stable business climate, recent growth in the GDP and the Government's intention to support the various sectors and industry through institutions such as JAMPRO.

However, he pointed out that certain other variables need to be looked at closely to achieve even better results.

These include crime and more efficient energy strategies through the use of alternative and renewable energy.

Linehan said Wednesday as he addressed the conference that Digicel will continue to invest in Jamaica.

The company has already announced that this year it will spend US$30 million on the roll-out of 4G mobile nationwide, and is expecting to finalise its US$60-million headquarters for the group and Jamaican operations in downtown Kingston.

These will add to the more than US$1-billion investment that Digicel has made over the past almost 11 years since Digicel started operations in Jamaica on April 1, 2001, Linehan said.

Prior to its market entry, less than 10 per cent of Jamaicans had access to local telephone usage. Now, with over two million customers on the Digicel network, mobile coverage is near universal across the population.

Linehan said that Digicel is also showing its commitment to Jamaica by "investing in the communities that we work in" and that his company uses local supplies for over 70 per cent of their input.

The idea of Brand Jamaica also has its advantages for investors, he said, because of worldwide recognition.

"Jamaica has a rich culture and people the world over identify with Brand Jamaica. Brand Jamaica could never be stronger. Jamaica is Digicel's home and before Jamaica there was no Digicel," he added.

One of the goals of the JSE conference is to generate interest in equity investments and encourage companies to raise capital through the stock market.

Digicel Group, which funds its capital outlay largely through debt, will continue to use that means of financing, Linehan indicated.

"We have borrowed money in the past and we have an excellent existing relationship with the financial institutions; but no, not at all, we are not looking at that now," said Linehan, in relation to whether the company would consider going public. "No, that is not on the table," he added.