Source-Trinidad Guardian- CL Financial shareholders have raised the necessary funds to repay Government the billion-dollar debt owed from Government’s 2009 bailout of the former insurance giant.
This after shareholders met last week with CLF majority shareholder Lawrence Duprey, who was back in T&T for a second time, Duprey spokesman Carlton Reis said yesterday.
Reis is a representative of Dalco, the largest CLF shareholder.
Shareholders have already established a transition team in anticipation of having the matter of repayment and regaining CLF’s stable of companies underway and settled by year end. They’ve also started contacting other islands where Clico subsidiaries are located.
Yesterday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert confirmed CLF shareholders had made an offer to repurchase the companies “which the Ministry and Central Bank are looking at very carefully.”
Said Imbert: “This matter is in its early stages. There will be further discussions in due course on the details and the quantum and the method of repayment before a decision can be made.
“Further, if and/or when the Ministry forms the view that the offer is realistic, a submission will be made to Cabinet, which is the ultimate decision maker. These discussions are sensitive and complex.”
Florida-based Duprey, who was away from T&T for seven years, returned for the first time on October 3 and met officials of some CL subsidiaries and held talks with top state officials affiliated to the companies. But he didn’t meet with any ministers, Reis said. His visit was after shareholders held talks with Government in August on their April proposal to regain control of CL companies. In April, Imbert had asked CL shareholders to identify what they wanted and expected. They detailed proposals, envisaging CLF would remain with varying percentages and retain control of six companies, including Angostura Holdings Ltd, Colfire Limited and Home Construction Ltd.
Reis added, “At our (August) meeting with government, we said we were in a position to raise the money to repay the debt. We received a favourable response.”
On October 26, the group sent Government notification of a 150-day plan to repay the debt, adding they had raised the funds to pay in full.
“We’re awaiting response,” Reis said. Government’s last estimation of the debt figure was $21-$23 billion but Reis estimated it may be about $15 billion after repaying Government from funds from the sale of Methanol company shares.
The group has agreed to support Government’s Sandals’ hotel development on the Clico-subsidiary owned Golden Grove Estate in Tobago. Reis said handover of the land to the Tobago House of Assembly hasn’t occurred yet.
He expected the Tobago hotel plan to involve Clico transferring ownership of the land to the THA, which will offset part of CLF’s debt to Government. The estate was valued at approximately US$35 million in 2013.
SHAREHOLDERS MEET FINANCIERS
Reis said they worked on sourcing their financing during Duprey’s recent visit.
“During Mr Duprey’s visit (last week) we all met with US, European and Canadian financial houses and legal experts to finalise fund sourcing. He was instrumental in raising the money. Funding was raised locally and internationally. We have the cash for Government and we’re ready to roll.
“Ideally, we’d like the situation to start moving by Christmas so companies can revert to shareholders. Clico is solvent. Under the Memorandum of Agreement, it’s time for Government to hand companies back.”
He said Duprey is advising the transition team, which will undertake the projected shift of the companies back to shareholders. “We expect he’ll continue visiting T&T more regularly to participate in the process as it moves. He’s very optimistic about T&T’s economy, he senses an energy,” Reis said.
Shareholders have also established another team to seek the return of CLF assets in Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and Barbados, he said.
Reis said Duprey, who left T&T last Thursday, hasn’t been approached by authorities on the Colman Commission of enquiry report into the Clico collapse. The Prime Minister sent that to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In the 2016 budget, Imbert had pledged to resolve the Clico issue finally in the interest of all.