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PM makes case for BTC sale

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham yesterday made the case for the sale of the telecommunications company, arguing that the company’s profitability was on the decline.

“Batelco, as it was then, made a loss in 1991 and again in 1992. After that date Batelco recorded a loss again in 1994 and then in 1999,”he said yesterday during the Bahamas Telecommunication Company sale debate in the House of Assembly.”The loss recorded in 1999 amounted to some$34.1 million and is accounted for by the separation packages offered to Batelco employees during the exercise of that year, undertaken to prepare it for privatization,”he said.”Immediately thereafter, BTC(formerly Batelco)began to operate profitably and to pay the government handsome dividends. In 2000 net earnings rose to$56.1 million, climbed to$57.4 million in 2001 and totalled$50.8 million in 2002. In those three years alone BTC’s profits totalled$164.3 million, which is more than it had earned in its 24-year history between 1966 and 1992.

“BTC’s earnings for the period 1993 to 2010 totalled$430.40 million. During the same period$151.40 million was paid to the government in dividends as compared with$10.56 million paid between 1966 and 1992.”

BTC reported net income of$47 million for the year ended December 31, 2009–a more than$26 million jump from the year-earlier period.

According to the telecom’s 2009 annual report, revenue generated from pre-paid cellular services increased by more than$16 million from$143.1 million in 2008 to$159.4 million in 2009.

The increase–coupled with a$23 million hike in operating income and a$15 million decline in operating expenses–likely contributed to the net income jump of$47.9 million in 2009 from the$21 million seen the year before.

Fixed line and cellular rental revenue also increased by more than$3 million to$73.6 million last year, from$69.9 million the year earlier.

Increased competition is expected to be thrown at the monopoly in just a few years. Several competitors have already thrown their hats into the ring and are lining up to lure customers away from the monopoly as soon as they get the signal.

Ingraham also revealed that there are now only four settlements in the Family Islands that are yet to enter the final frontier–receiving cable television service. According to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham the service would soon be available to the population on those islands, with the last island slated to receive the service in May 2011 as a part of the Family Island Off-Air Project.

“I am pleased to inform that the pace of the extension of cable television service to our remote Family Island communities was accelerated since 2007.”

Those islands which will benefit from the project are Water and Sweetings Cay in Grand Bahama, Rum Cay, Ragged Island and North Andros.

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