After losing the battle for control of Banks Holdings Limited Trinidadian conglomerate ANSA McAL has wasted no time in disposing some of its shares in the company.
This despite its ongoing court challenge to the recent takeover of the Barbadian brewery by its rival, Brazilian-owned AMBEV.
Today a top AMBEV official disclosed that the company had acquired shares from ANSA McAL, thereby increasing its commitment, as of yesterday, to about 95 per cent of the BHL shares.
The development comes just over a week after ANSA conceded defeat to AMBEV in the battle for BHL. At a news conference on December 8, President and CEO Nicholas Mouttet had acknowledged that ANSA McAl now had the option of disposing of its BHL shares, but had said he was assessing the situation. However, Mouttet did not rule out the possibility of acquiring any aspect of BHL’s business, which includes the manufacturing of dairy products and juices, if they became available.
“I am not in a position to say whether or not AMBEV is interested in selling off those parts of the business, but certainly if they do decide to sell, . . . certainly we will consider it. Those are parts of the business that did interest us,” he told reporters at the time.
Today, AMBEV’s Commercial Director for the Caribbean Marcio Juliano did not disclose the total number of shares purchased from ANSA or the final value.
He also could not say how much the intense bidding war with theTrinidad conglomerate had cost the company, and he refused to comment on the ongoing court case which ANSA has brought against BHL.
However, he did give a strong commitment that the Banks brand would remain.
Speaking publicly for the first time since AMBEV’s successful bid for a controlling stake in Banks Holdings Limited (BHL), Juliano also made it clear there would be no divestment of any of the operations, and that AMBEV’s focus would be on growing the local market share as well as the company’s export potential.
“We have no intention at this point of divesting any of the subsidiaries in Barbados, including the dairy business. And we have absolutely no intention of changing the name of the company or any of its brands. Banks is an iconic brand of Barbados and we intend to keep it that way,” Juliano said.
He could not give expansion details, but promised significant investments as the operations are integrated. The integration process, which will see a number of the company’s Dominican Republic staff working alongside local staff, will begin in January 2016.
“We will shortly commence an integration plan to be able to increase our synergies and to focus on what is best from both groups in order to take Banks forward,” Juliano told reporters at a media conference at the Barbados Hilton Resort.
The brewery executive explained that his company was eager to enter the local market because Barbados was a dynamic place which presented growth opportunities and fitted “perfectly” into the company’s strategy for Central American and the Caribbean.
He added that AMBEV had been “analyzing” BHL for years and that they now had the opportunity to expand even further into other English-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, and to take the product global.
“We looked at its operations and the brands and we recognized that these are well-loved brands in Barbados and thought that this was the right time to come. Our major goal is to keep the local knowledge and combine that with our expertise as a global company . . . So we have no plans for a major retrenchment of Banks staff. In fact, we look forward to working with them,” he said.
Pushed to say if there would be some retrenchment, Juliano said “mass change” to the structure should not be expected, and that instead of cutbacks they might employ additional staff.
“What we are saying there is no mass change plan to be done. We will work with the teams. We understand the organizations but there is nothing pre-planned. [There is potential to increase employment] in line with the growth we are planning to have.”
While acknowledging that AMBEV was also a manufacturer of the Coco Cola brand, he said he did not see any conflict of that business with the Barbados operations.
Pointing out that a number of issues were still being discussed, Juliano would not say if the company intended to delist from the Barbados Stock Exchange (BSE), stressing it was “a potential situation”.
Juliano, who was appointed the new chairman of the BHL board as of today, also reported the appointment of the majority of the directors.
They are Moricio Juliano, Ramon Franco, Eduardo Salles, Eduardo Lacerda and Saolo Rodrigues. They will work alongside the local team of Richard Cozier, Chris DeCaires, Elvin Sealy, and Kristian Freiwald.
Cherice Jones will serve as corporate secretary.