The days of having Barbadian companies with only local shareholders are nearing an end.
This warning from President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Tracey Shuffler, amid the ongoing public debate over the proposed sale of Banks Holdings Limited (BHL), one of the last remaining locally-owned conglomerates.
Since news broke that Latin American based company Ambev, which currently owns 40.7 per cent shares in the local brewery company, was seeking to acquire the additional shares, some Barbadians have expressed both concern and regret.
However, speaking at the October luncheon of the BCCI earlier this week, Shuffler warned that the era of fully Barbadian companies was “passing quickly as the necessity for expansion into higher growth markets and rigorous brand development become the normative”.
“A number of people have been bemoaning the possibility of a takeover of [BHL], but these are the realities of business today,” she told the gathering at the Hilton resort.
She argued that, “when a company has successfully built brand equity, has expanded into new markets, has increased capacity and therefore offers potential for greater returns in the future, it cannot be a surprise that there is buyer interest.
“Yes, there are the complexities of share trading and business valuations and due diligence of potential buyers, but in the end, shareholders are looking to create wealth,” she said.
Noting that export development, as well as brand and capacity expansion required significant additional investment for most companies, Shuffler said she believed that “as Caribbean people we need to come to a realization that any combination of regional ownership is still considered indigenous.
“Facilitating trade as a nation is part of what has to happen and the other greater leap is facilitating trade at a regional level, which sometimes soon will include most of Latin America,” she said.
“As Barbadians we have to decide whether we have the courage and the determination to accept that investment is about actively seeking the opportunities, wherever they are, and seizing them.
“We also have to do all we can, in both the private sector and Government, to ensure that Barbados is attractive for investment. That will allow for greater regional and foreign direct investment, which leads to job creation, economic churn and eventually the creation of wealth for citizens,” added Shuffler.