Govt hopes to close BTC sale by Feb. 15
The government intends to finalize the sale of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) by mid-February, revealed Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who said if the deal is not done by then it may take another couple months before it is complete.
“It is our hope that we’re going to complete the BTC sale by the 15th of February,” Ingraham said as he addressed Rotarians during a luncheon at the British Colonial Hilton yesterday.
“That’s our hope. That’s what we’re aiming for. If we can’t do it by then, then indications are that Cable and Wireless would not wish to do it until April. So we are going to make every effort to complete the transaction by the 15th of February.”
Ingraham did not specify why there would be a delay if the deal is not finalized by that date.
The government recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with CWC. The international telecommunications giant is buying a 51 percent stake in BTC for $210 million.
Ingraham said in addition to the eventual liberalization of the cellular industry, the privatization of the telecommunications company will also bode well for the economy.
“We expect that consumers will benefit from access to higher quality and more affordable telecommunications services all across The Bahamas,” he said.
“Improved communications services will certainly assist us in our efforts to become and remain more competitive as a business and tourism destination.
“There is every reason to expect that a privatized BTC will continue a policy of outsourcing non-core functions, thereby supporting the large and growing small business community which depends heavily on BTC today.
“No doubt new entrepreneurial opportunities will also become available to Bahamians as a result of the liberalization of the telecommunications market.”
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has criticized the government over the deal.
“This is a bad deal,” said PLP leader Perry Christie, who was a guest yesterday on 98.3 the Breeze, an Exuma radio station owned by businessman Dwight Hart.
“The country has been shortchanged.”
He said the PLP government left in place a deal for the sale of 49 percent of BTC for $260 million, and added that the “FNM is selling the controlling interest in BTC and giving control to foreigners.”
When asked to respond to PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts who also claimed that the country has been shortchanged, Ingraham said his government made the best decision.
“The statement made by[Roberts]is balderdash. We are absolutely satisfied with the price that we got with BTC,” he said.
“We had competitive bidding and nobody matched the price that was offered. We are very, very pleased with the price we got and the terms we got and believe it’s in the best interest of The Bahamas.”
The prime minister added that as soon as the deal is done, the government will offer nine percent of the shares of BTC to the Bahamian public.
Additionally, he said over the next three years the government intends to offer up to 25 percent to the general public. However, he added that the government has not yet determined the dates when it will make the shares available.