If Prime Minister Perry Christie has his way, the majority stake in The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) will return to the hands of the government and Bahamians.
The nation’s chief made the announcement yesterday as he delivered the 2012/2013 Budget Communication in the House of Assembly.
It’s a promise he made early last year after thousands of Bahamians protested the majority sale of BTC.
Last April, British telecom heavyweight Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) purchased a 51 per cent stake in BTC for $210 million plus stamp taxes.
“We remain faithful to our commitment to explore all lawful means by which majority ownership of BTC can be restored to the government and the Bahamian people,” Mr. Christie said.
“We shall very shortly arrange a timetable for discussions that we propose to undertake in this regard with the present owners of the majority stake in BTC and other interested stakeholders.”
In a terse statement, the management of BTC said they believe it would be inappropriate for them to comment on the government’s policy position regarding the company.
“We respect the fact that government represents the Bahamian shareholding of BTC and as such has the right to have discussions as they deem appropriate, at the shareholder to shareholder level,” the company said.
“The management of BTC – as has been stated – will do its job and fulfill its mandate. This mandate directs management in concert with the full BTC team to work diligently to modernise the company, improve the infrastructure, empower our colleagues, promote Bahamian entrepreneurship opportunities and revolutionise the customer service experience.”
Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis also reacted to the prime minister’s announcement.
“I think that’s a dangerous and irresponsible statement for the prime minister to make unless BTC is up for sale and the prime minister has a magical wand and finds extra funds to purchase BTC, but it’s a reckless statement,” Dr. Minnis said.
According to officials, BTC ended its 2011/2012 fiscal year with a total revenue of $352 million and an EBITDA (pre-interest and tax earnings) of $91 million, according to its parent company, Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC).
CWC said BTC delivered a solid financial performance fuelled in part by a successful restructuring exercise and BTC’s exclusivity in the mobile space.
CWC’s published results indicated that good progress had been made in developing the business over the past 12 months with improved efficiency, a new 4G mobile network and improvements in customer service and experience including the refurbishment of several of BTC’s stores.
CWC also confirmed that BTC would seek to build on the successful first year, stressing increased customer service and company performance to prepare for the introduction of competition in 2014, and allow it to make required future investments.
BTC said it would continue to work with the government through its board and shareholder representatives to ensure that BTC meets and exceeds expectations of all of its stakeholders.