The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) has launched “initial investigations” into the presumptive sale of the island’s only oil terminal, the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL), to a private firm.
In April this year Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced that the sale of the oil terminal was almost complete with Government simply “waiting on the cheque” to finalize the deal.
At the time Sinckler would not name the buyer, not did he give details of the sale, and he remains tightlipped on it to this day.
Government officials have also refused to confirm or deny reports that the BNTCL had been sold to one of the island’s petroleum companies.
The FTC does not currently regulate the BNTCL. However, according to the Fair Competition Act, any public bid for the control of an entity would be considered a merger and had the potential to lead to a dominant position, and would therefore require application and subsequent investigation by the FTC.
The FTC’s Chief Executive Officer Sandra Sealy told Barbados TODAY in a very brief interview that while she was yet to receive any official documents regarding the sale of the BNTCL to a private entity, the regulatory body was keeping a close eye on the development.
“We are doing the initial investigation on the matter, but we realize that negotiations are still ongoing at this stage,” Sealy said.
“We have communicated with the relevant ministry on the procedure that is needed for the approval of a merger undertaking such as this would be,” she added.
In conducting its investigation the FTC is expected to take into account a number of factors, including the structure of the markets likely to be affected by the proposed merger; the degree of control exercised by the enterprises concerned in the proposed merger, particularly the economic and financial power of the enterprises; and the likely effect on consumers and the economy, according to the Fair Competition Act.
“Where the merger proposed is likely to result in unfair competition, the Commission may direct the enterprise within an agreed period to divest interest or part of their combined business or operations if the Commission is satisfied that such divestment would make the merger less likely to lessen competition or to affect adversely, the interests of consumers or the economy,” the Act states.
So far, efforts to get comments from Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Energy Senator Darcy Boyce have been unsuccessful, while Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss could not confirm the status of the takeover bid.
However, he told Barbados TODAY he was satisfied that the FTC would continue to do its work “in the usual professional manner”.
“I have greatest confidence in the Commissioners and the staff of the FTC,” Inniss said.