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Bahamas, C&W reach agreement on telecoms shareholding

Published:Friday | August 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The Bahamas government says it will soon announce an agreement reached with Cable and Wireless Communication (CWC) regarding the ownership of Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).

Cable & Wireless had previously acquired 51 per cent of BTC shares for US$204 million, but Prime Minister Perry Christie had pledged to reacquire majority ownership in the telecoms.

Soon after taking office following the 2012 election, Christie's administration appointed a committee chaired by accountant Franklyn Wilson to renegotiate with CWC for the retransfer of the two per cent of the BTC shares, reversing the ownership of the company.

"It is worthy of note that this committee, in its review of the sale of the 51 per cent to CWC, has reported that it found no wrong-doing by CWC in the exercise," said Christie, while addressing the 30th annual conference of CANTO that ended in Nassau on Wednesday.

"Of greater significance, though, I am delighted to report, the committee was successful in negotiating an ownership transfer of two per cent of the shares in BTC, which were owned by CWC, to a trust foundation set up by the government of The Bahamas," Christie said.

Responding to critics who have called the transaction a face-saving deal and that an extension to Cable & Wireless' 'exclusivity' licence was tied to the transaction, Christie said: "I can give absolute assurance that the transfer of two per cent of the shares of BTC to the trust foundation has no such conditions. The share transfer stands alone."

Cable & Wireless maintains management control of the telecoms under the transaction.

The negotiation cost the government US$10,000 in legal fees, according to the prime minister.

"A full report to the Bahamian people on the definitive arrangement for the transfer of the two per cent to the trust foundation is pending. An official, public, joint announcement will be made by the government of The Bahamas and CWC this month."