Senior officials of financial services giant Sagicor Financial Corporation are expecting turbulent times ahead for many economies in which it operates. However, they are giving the assurance that the company is in a good position to weather any storm and that it was not about to become a “serial redomiciler”.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Sagicor International Ravi Rambarran told journalists yesterday the company was expecting regional and international economies to experience weak economic growth, along with some fiscal challenges in 2016.
Rambarran was responding to questions from journalists from Barbados and Trinidad during a joint video conference from Port of Spain after reporting on the company’s financial performance for the financial year ending December 31, 2015.
The Sagicor Group experienced strong performance last year, with net income of US$76.8 million, compared to US$73.9 million for 2014, an increase of 3.9 per cent. Revenue grew to just over US$1.1 billion in 2015, up from US$1 billion in 2014.
In light of anemic economic growth regionally and low growth internationally the company reported improved shareholder results and success in raising funds through the issuance of bonds to finance its debt last year.
For the first quarter of 2016, Rambarran said the company saw a slight fall in revenue from US$272 million to US$264 million.
“We further expect that the Caribbean economies, because we have limited buffers in terms of foreign exchange reserves and the capacity to borrow, will have further challenges. We expect increased regulatory oversight and capital standard for financial institutions.
“From a Sagicor perspective, within that environment, we recognize that we do have a negative exposure in terms of large exposure to Caribbean sovereign debt by virtue of operating in these markets, so that is part and parcel of the risk that we naturally assume,” explained Rambarran.
However, he said the company had “positive exposures to manage the environment”.
Chief among the strengths, he said, were the company’s brand, financial strength and market share, range of products and capital distribution as well as its high investment grade.
“We continue our corporate focus on the streamlining of operations, the streamlining of our systems and processes. We continue to seek opportunities. We will continue to diversify by country, by lines of business and customer segment, and we still believe that there are many opportunities for growth both organically and inorganically,” added Rambarran.
He also defended the company’s decision to move its headquarters from Barbados to Bermuda, saying a number of factors were taken into consideration.
“We have not taken this recommendation to our shareholders lightly. It has been after extensive deliberation and research and seeking advice from experts. So we don’t expect to be, for want of a better term, serial redomicilers, but our duty is to manage, based on our environment and our expectations, and this is the basis of our recommendation,” said Rambarran.
“Yes, the environment, frankly since 2008 has been a somewhat difficult environment to operate in. But those companies that have the right management the right strategy, will succeed,” he added.
He pointed out that despite the challenges, Sagicor has grown in terms of countries, product lines and customer segments.
“So we recognize this environment has presented opportunities. Typically in a volatile environment more opportunities arise than they do in a stable environment . . . So we are confident that we can manage and navigate this environment and our track record demonstrates that,” added Rambarran.
Chairman Stephen McNamara said the company was continuously restructuring some of operations in order to “cope with the environment that we see going forward”.
“And there are many internal changes being made that are intended to improve the operations of the company generally, and put it in a position to face these challenges, which we expect in the various markets that we operate,” he said.
“We are diversifying our markets so hopefully not all of them will be in a state of confución at the same time. And that whilst we may have a downturn here we may see a slight uptake there, and we are looking to manage and balance that as we go forward.
“I think we have demonstrated over the last couple of years when things have been grim that we can still make a profit in this company in grim times, and we have every intentions of continuing to do this. I see that,” maintained McNamara.
And without disclosing what the next step would be should the attempt to relocate the company’s headquarters to Bermuda fail, Rambarran told journalists the company’s board and management would pursue a “plan B”.
“We are hoping that our shareholders are reasonable and to a large extent they have been,” said Rambarran, who was unable to provide the overall cost of the move.