There is a possibility that the Bermuda-based BF&M Limited could sell its majority stake in the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL).
Barbados TODAY has been reliably informed that several offers are currently on the table for the purchase of the former Government-owned insurance giant, with former competitor Sagicor said to among the interested parties.
When contacted for comment, President and Chief Executive Officer of BF&M Ltd John Wight would only confirm through his communications department that several parties have expressed an interest in the Perry Gap, St Michael insurance business.
“Certain parties have expressed an interest in our majority stake in ICBL.
“The topic of sales and acquisitions regularly arises among our industry partners and counterparts, and we carefully consider all potential opportunities as part of our ongoing strategic review process,” Wight said in the emailed response without providing any details.
BF&M, which operates in more than a dozen territories and comprised several companies, currently holds just over 51 per cent of shares in ICBL, which also has 2,300 Barbadian shareholders. They account for more than 30 per cent of the company’s ownership, with Government’s having a ten per cent stake in the company.
According to the Barbados Stock Exchange, share price for ICBL’s stock was valued at $3.50 as at March 1, 2018.
However, the company has been quickly losing market share over the past two years, raking in only $7.5 million in net income in 2016, compared to the $10.8 million in the previous year.
ICBL’s consolidated financial statement for the first nine months ending September 30, 2017 further reveals that net income after taxes was a mere $1.7 million, compared to the $8.4 million for the corresponding period ending September 30, 2016.
According to Wight, the company’s performance last year was impacted by “continued soft market conditions, which has lowered the price of premiums in certain lines of business”.
“There have also been certain one-time expenses and unbudgeted costs – one key risk mitigation strategy is for ICBL to buy insurance from reinsurance companies based overseas that require funds to be paid in US dollars,” Wight said in that report.
The chairman of the ICBL board further explained that while the company was fully supportive of measures to improve Government finances, unbudgeted costs such as the two per cent foreign exchange fees on reinsurance “on top of the new tax on assets are significant to the company’s results”.
Despite its declining financial performance, ICBL remains well capitalized with equity of $147.3 million up to December 31, 2016. The insurance giant, which offers a variety of insurance products ranging from home, auto, business, travel, life and health, as well as pension services, has also managed to maintain an A- (Excellent) A.M Best rating, which reflects the company’s ability to settle policyholders’ claims, even if catastrophic in nature.
However, exactly a year ago, ICBL was forced to cut staff as a means of reducing its operating expenditure. And by way of a voluntary separation package, several managers were axed from the company after receiving bonus payments of up to $50,000 in addition to their regular severance and vacation pay, while non-managers were offered as much as $25,000 in addition to severance and vacation pay.
The move followed the sudden departure of Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Ingrid Innes, who resigned from the top position in January 2017.
No reason has been given for her sudden departure to date.
However, last year also saw the departure of Alex Tasker, who was the senior vice president of Business Development and Marketing. He has since taken up the CEO position at Digicel Barbados.