One renewable energy industry official has thrown his full support behind the approved sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL) to the Kiffin Simpson-led Sol Group, saying it was about time that entity was placed the hands of the private sector.
In fact, Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA) board member Hallam Hope told Barbados TODAY that with the sale of the BNTCL, which is a subsidiary of the Barbados National Oil Company, Government could now focus more of its financial resources on the expansion of the renewable energy sector.
Last Friday Barbados TODAY broke the news that the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) had finally okayed the controversial deal, ten months after it was first announced that the entity was up for sale.
However, Sol and the Government now have to meet to mull over the FTC’s stipulations, which include that there could be no 15-year moratorium on construction of new terminal facilities.
The FTC has also rejected Sol’s call for a 32 per cent pre-sale increase in throughput fees, on the basis that it could impinge on the provisions of the Fair Competition Act, which prohibits merger increases in prices.
Hope supported the sale, explaining that once the stipulations by the regulatory body were acceptable, it was a welcomed move.
“The sale of the oil terminal, once regulatory conditions are acceptable, is a positive move as it allows the Government of the day and the Barbados National Oil Company to focus on renewable energy development,” he said.
“No longer is there an apparent conflict between whether renewable energy is the investment now for the future or whether we should keep faith in fossil fuel. Government [coffers] also need the money urgently and its resources should not be tied up in an asset, which could be run more efficiently by a cash-strong private sector entity,” he said, adding that “I am pleased that the Fair Trading Commission has signaled its intention to keep a firm eye on anti-competition forays, which it has a mandate in law to undertake”.
However, even as it is still unclear if Government would rake in the estimated US$100 million, which the BNTCL was valued at when the planned sale was first announced, Sol’s competitor in the oil market here, Rubis West Indies, is still prepared to legally defend its position on the matter.
Back in March Rubis, which had filed a claim against the BNOCL challenging the fairness of the tendering process, had put Government on notice that it was prepared to go as far as triggering the articles of a bilateral investment treaty between the United Kingdom and Barbados.
Rubis’ attorney Leslie Haynes, QC, had explained that because the company was incorporated in Britain, the treaty protects it from unfair practices in view of the planned merger, which is expected to see BNOCL continuing to source, import, own and distribute gasoline, diesel and fuel oil to all local marketers.
“This [the judicial review] is something that we would have said to our lawyers that we would review once the FTC has made its final ruling. So I think it is fair to say that our legal challenge is still on the table,” Chief Executive Officer of Rubis Mauricio Nicholls told Barbados TODAY in his initial comment after it was revealed the sale was a go ahead, but with conditions.
“The key is to know what the conditions of the deal are and if we understand those then we can better know how we can proceed in this matter,” he added.