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PM: Come back home, Sagicor

by Marlon Madden
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Describing Sagicor Financial’s decision to domicile in Bermuda as a “great regret”,  Prime Minister Mia Mottley is hopeful that the insurance giant will return.

And a Sagicor official has held out hope that it may heed Mottley’s request.

The Prime Minister was addressing a sod-turning ceremony at Boarded Hall, St George, where the company is embarking on a multi-million dollar retirement village dubbed The Estates at St George.

“One of the great regrets of the last lost decade was the [re-domicile] of Sagicor from Barbados.

“Therefore, I will continue to express the anguish that is associated with a jilted lover for as long as Sagicor remains offshore,” Mottley said.

After about 170 years, Sagicor Financial Corporation, successor to the Barbados Mutual Assurance Society, re-domiciled to Bermuda in 2016, shortly after Barbados was slapped with a downgrade of its sovereign credit rating to ‘B’ from ‘BB+’ by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s.

That downgrade had meant that Sagicor Life’s rating would also drop from BB+ to BB-, while the Sagicor Finance’s $150 million ten-year senior unsecured notes were rated B. Ratings on life insurers are capped at two notches above the sovereign rating of the country of domicile.

Domiciling in Bermuda meant that while Sagicor maintained its headquarters in Barbados and is being treated as resident here for tax purposes, it is now registered in Bermuda, where it has its holding company.

Group Chief Operating Officer Ravi Rambarran maintained that moving the legal incorporation of Sagicor from Barbados to Bermuda was done to ensure that company’s ability to raise capital and expand its foot print in the region would be “uninterrupted”.

“So there is no change in any of our operations in Barbados or any of the other islands within the Caribbean,” he said.

However, when pressed as to whether it was possible for the company to be re-incorporated in Barbados as requested by the Prime Minister, Rambarran suggested that there was always that possibility.

Ramrattan said: “Our board of directors and the management, we continually monitor the economic outlooks of the various countries we operate in and we respond to them accordingly. So we never rule out any decision that will improve our ability to continue to serve the communities. But first and foremost, we must maintain our financial strength to meet those promises. So that is always under review.”

Late last year, Sagicor entered into a business combination agreement with Canadian special purpose acquisition firm Alignvest Acquisition II, which will see that company acquiring all the shares of Sagicor Financial in a deal worth about US$536 million.

That transaction is expected to close by the first half of this year and see the formation of a new entity, New Sagicor.

In a separate deal, Alignvest and Sagicor have agreed to acquire the life insurance business of the Canadian-based bank Scotiabank in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.

The insurance giant has also signed off on a 20-year exclusive agreement, which will see it providing insurance solutions to Scotiabank clients in those Caribbean countries.

Executive Vice President and General Manager of Sagicor Life Inc. Edward Clarke told Barbados TODAY he was satisfied with the company’s performance over the years, adding that over its more than seven decades of existence, Sagicor had survived numerous economic recessions and natural disasters, which was a testament to is resilience.

Clarke said: “I think if a company can come though all of those things and still be as strong as we are that shows we are the company for the future… and we are the company that is going to transform Barbados and the wider Caribbean at this time.

“Business last year was not as good as we would have liked, but I think the reasons are obvious why – Barbados was in a recession for quite a long time. I think this year things have picked up a bit. It all has to do with confidence – confidence in the economy and confidence in leadership. And we look forward to a better 2019. It has started better so we hope it continues in that vein.”

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