The island’s newest telecommunications provider today revealed it was sending home 80 per cent of its workforce and would suspend all debt payments in a bid to survive a multi-million dollar debt.
The one-year-old Ozone Wireless said it owed $8 million to over 50 creditors, and would therefore undertake a three-year debt re-profiling programme.
In a clear-the-air news conference at the company’s headquarters at Pine Complex this afternoon, new head Dr Nicholas Kelly explained that the company had frozen all debt payments until January 2019, and would reduce its staff compliment from 60 to 12 employees.
In addition, the Manor Lodge office will be closed effective August 3, while bill payment stations will be established at several Nature’s Discount outlets.
Kelly also said while Ozone would maintain its voice over LTE service, its primary focus would be on data provision.
“We have a lot of debt. We owe 52 different creditors. We owe money to our landlords for tower rentals, we owe money to Flow for towers and connections. However, the amount of money that is owed is significantly less than the money that has been invested thus far and there are people lining up to invest in Ozone because they want the third player to survive.
“So I have a plan to freeze all debt payments and renegotiate the cost of doing business with all of our customers,” Kelly said, going on to reveal that almost all of the creditors had agreed to give the company six months of breathing room.
However, the company has yet to meet with Flow, although Kelly expressed confidence that Flow would agree to the freeze, as Ozone’s survival would redound to the benefit of the telecommunications giant.
“The CEO of Flow has indicated to me personally that they do not wish for Ozone to be crushed. They know they have the power to do it but at the end of the day if we end up with five per cent of the population we are not going to be a big thorn in the side of either Flow or Digicel, yet we would be an extremely profitable company.
“We don’t need to go for half of the population to be profitable and upset the two incumbents. In fact, we are going to be one of their biggest customers because there are only two pipelines into Barbados owned by Flow and Digicel and we rent from both of them,” he added.
The businessman acknowledged that the company had a lot of ground to cover before regaining the trust of customers, as a result of the reports that Ozone was being sold to Flow, as well as an unannounced three-day closure of the main branch last month.
“I apologize to the public because I was in the dark too. I had no clue what was going on and after I took over I had to get all of the facts together. I couldn’t release too much information because I honestly did not know. So now that I have all of the facts I can say . . . I have touched base with all of the creditors and we still have a good structure with the billing system based in Israel,” Kelly explained, while blaming poor management put in place by his partners for the company’s current situation.