Categorized | Featured, National News

BTC Union Questions Sale of BTC Cell Towers

BTC cell tower

The parent company of Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) Liberty Latin America
(LLA), has decided to sell its cell phone towers to a third party that would maintain them for a
basic rate.
LLA announced in a recent statement that it entered into an agreement with Phoenix Tower
International (PTI) in a move that would allow the company to generate revenue from its
approximately 1,300 mobile towers across the region including The Bahamas, British Virgin
Islands, Puerto Rico, Panama, Jamaica and Barbados. As part of the agreement, PTI would take
care of BTC’s towers relieving the company from the tedious task of maintaining the towers.
According to the statement, “The transaction also provides advantageous arrangements to extend
coverage with a further 500 sites being built by Liberty Latin America and PTI over the next five
years. Inclusive of these commitments, the total proceeds increase to $407 million. Net proceeds
are expected to be used to reduce debt and further invest in the company’s businesses.”
“The terms of the transaction include long-term master lease agreements for each market for the
company’s continued use of the telecommunications towers infrastructure following completion
of the transaction. The closing of the transaction is subject to customary conditions and certain
government approvals, and is expected to occur within three to six months,” the statement added.
In light of the new agreement by BTC’s parent company, there are some in the industry who
have questions about the new agreement and its impact on BTC’s operations.
Sherry Benjamin, president of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union
(BCPOU), which represents BTC line staff is questioning how BTC and its customers benefit
from the new agreement, even after reportedly speaking to BTC Chief Executive Officer
Sameer Bhatti in a telephone conversation.
According to Ms. Benjamin, the sale and leaseback of 345 BTC cell towers to Phoenix was
approved by both the government and LLA. Ms. Benjamin is seeking an explanation from the
government on its rationale and how the agreement will benefit The Bahamas.
Vice Chairman on the Board of Directors at BTC Valentine Grimes is reported as saying the
goal of the Davis administration is for a portion of the Phoenix sales price to be reinvested in
improving BTC’s services and the roll-out of 5G mobile phone technology.
He also explained the sale and leaseback of BTC’s existing cell tower sites will enable the
carrier to monetize the value of its existing infrastructure as part of a wider $355 million, six-
jurisdiction deal involving other affiliates of its ultimate parent, LLA. The deal proceeds were
touted as increasing to $407 million when Phoenix constructs a further 500 sites over the next
five years.
Mr. Grimes also explained that similar deals are a growing trend in the international
telecommunications industry. He said the government believes that in addition to monetizing
the value of key infrastructure assets, the deal will also enable BTC and other Liberty Latin

America affiliates to focus on improving the quality of mobile services they deliver to
Mr. Grimes, who together with three other directors represents the government’s 49 percent
equity interest in BTC, confirmed that board members have given their approval of the
Phoenix sale and leaseback, and that the deal is now in the process of being finalized, and is
subject to obtaining all the necessary regulatory approvals in The Bahamas, including those
from the central government – National Economic Council, Investments Board and Central
Bank (exchange control) – plus the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA)
and the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) for Freeport.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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