CWC ‘pleased’ with URCA approval
Cable&Wireless Communications (CWC) says it is”pleased”with the decision by the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority(URCA)to clear its proposed transaction for a majority shareholding in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)without referring it on to a second stage process nor seeking to impose conditions on the approval.
Geoff Houston, who is leading Cable&Wireless Communication’s transition team said:”We are extremely pleased that URCA has approved the transaction.
“We are hopeful that the other approvals required will also be forthcoming and we are very excited about working with the BTC team and the government to improve telecom services for all the people of The Bahamas.”
URCA announced Thursday that it has given the controversial deal the green light. As has been widely reported, CWC will acquire 51 percent of BTC for$210 million plus stamp tax.
“URCA has found there is no evidence to support a finding of substantial lessening of competition and therefore URCA has approved the change in control without any imposition of any conditions on the parties,”the regulator said in a press release.
URCA was only legally required to determine the adverse effects on competition in areas outlined in section 72 of the Communications Act(2009).
However, URCA said it has noted the”significant public interest”in various aspects of the BTC transaction.
The deal remains hugely controversial ahead of the parliamentary approval it is expected to receive.
Opposition Leader Perry Christie has said Progressive Liberal Party MPs will vote against the deal when it comes to the House of Assembly for approval.
Debate on the BTC privatization is set for March 21. It is expected to be a closely watched debate although there is not a lot of expectation that much new information will emerge.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, however, has indicated that he will tell the full story of the Bluewater deal the Christie administration had agreed to not long before the 2007 general election.
In addition to approval by the House of Assembly, the transaction is subject to approval by the Central Bank of The Bahamas and the National Economic Council.
Amendments to the Communications Act and publication of a revised Electronic Communications Sector Policy to reflect the extended period of BTC’s cellular exclusivity are also required.
CWC will have a three-year exclusivity period. Under the deal, the government will not launch any process in respect of the granting of a second cellular licence prior to the third anniversary of the completion of the transaction.
A third cellular licence shall not be issued prior to the fifth anniversary of completion of the transaction.
The government expects to close the deal early next month.
Immediately following the transaction, a new board of directors of BTC will be appointed comprising seven directors–four appointed by CWC and three appointed by the government.
For as long as the government owns at least 51 percent of the licensee’s issued share capital, BTC shall not take action or make decisions in respect of certain reserved matters without the prior consent of the government.