Fri | Sep 22, 2017

CWC chairman affirms confidence in Ja

Published:Friday | February 6, 2015 | 2:00 AM

Cable and Wireless Com-munications Plc (CWC) reaffirmed its plan to pump US$250 million into upgrades for LIME Jamaica up to 2017, a plan that it initially disclosed at the end of last summer.

The company said this week that about US$70 million of the funds had already been spent on the programme, which is focused on infrastructure and technological upgrades.

"Jamaica has a good investment climate. We greatly appreciate the support of the Government for encouraging investments, whether through levelling the playing field so that customers can benefit from more affordable mobile termination rates or, more recently, for the approval of the merger of Cable and Wireless Communications and Columbus International," said CWC Chairman Sir Richard Lapthorne at a dinner held in honour of the CWC board of directors in Kingston.

On the heels of Jamaica's approval of the merger, CWC chose Kingston to kick off its 2015 round of board meetings. Approvals for the US$3 billion deal are still pending in other regional markets.

Sir Richard said the proposed tie-up of CWC and Columbus, which trade respectively as LIME and Flow, will drive the types of investments and improvements that would not have been possible with both companies apart.

"We are now ready to unleash the sort of investment that neither company could have afforded alone," said the CWC chairman, adding that CWC-Columbus was committed to delivering an always-on, always-connected, converged network experience through "quad play".

Quad play refers to broadband Internet, television, telephone and wireless services on all platforms.

Sir Richard also commended the Jamaican Government for its handling of the economy, while noting Jamaica's climb 56 places up the Doing Business rankings.

CWC is based in London, but with the relocation of the company's operational base to Miami, Florida, for proximity to its markets, that office has shrank from 170 to about 35 staff, the Financial Gleaner was told.

The nine-member CWC board, which visited from February 2-4, was meeting in Jamaica for the first time in eight years.

The Jamaican business is EBITDA-positive, but otherwise racks up annual net losses in the billions due to depreciation and high debt-serving charges.

However, virtually all of LIME Jamaica's debts - $41 billion at September 2014 - are owed to its parent.

The US$250-million investment in Jamaica, as announced on September 5 of last year, is part of a larger US$1-billion pool of funds being pumped into LIME's Caribbean markets. CWC Chief Executive Phil Bentley said last year that Jamaica was still one of the telecoms' fastest-growing markets.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com