Friday 22 March, 2019

Imbert clears up report on acquisition of Guardian Holdings Limited

Finance Minister Colm Imbert is seeking to clarify reports regarding the proposed acquisition of a majority shareholding in Guardian Holdings Limited (GHL) by NCB Global Holdings Limited (NCBGHL).

In a statement issued on Thursday, Imbert denied reports in Wednesday’s Business Express which he deemed to be misleading.

He explained that the guidelines on the Ministry of Finance’s website are clear and state that an application for a foreign investment license (FIL) should be submitted directly to the Permanent Secretary for numerous reasons including to avoid delays and time wastage.

Imbert slammed the editor of the Business Express, Anthony Wilson, who he said has misinformed the public by stating that the NCB does not need a FIL license as the majority owner of the company hails from Jamaica, a CARICOM state.

He further criticized Wilson who openly declared that he is a shareholder of GHL and therefore stands to benefit if NCBGH’s bid to acquire the majority of GHL succeeds.

“In his quest to support his belief that a license is not required for this takeover bid, Mr. Wilson has gone to great lengths to make a case that Mr. Lee Chin, who he says owns 62% of “NCB” is a citizen of Jamaica, a member state of CARICOM, and as such, he should be exempt from the requirement to obtain a license for this transaction. However, in making this case, and in personalising the issue, Mr. Wilson has completely ignored the fact that the applicant for the license is not Mr. Lee Chin, but NCBHL: a company.”

Imbert further noted that NCBGHL is in fact owned by the NCB Financial Group Limited (NCBFGL), which in turn is owned by AIC (Barbados) Limited (AICBL), and several other companies, some or all of whose ownership may well reside outside of CARICOM.

He said Wilson should have properly investigated the matter.

“It would have made better and more informed reading, and good investigative journalism, if Mr. Wilson had bothered to find out who the applicant for the shares in GHL really is and who owns NCBGHL, NCBFGL, AICBL etc., and where the ownership of these various companies actually resides.”

The Finance Minister also pointed out that Section 74 of the Financial Institutions Act, Chap. 79:09 states that a significant or controlling shareholder of a financial entity “shall not become an acquirer of a licensee or of the financial holding company of a licensee without obtaining a permit issued by the Minister of Finance”.

He said what is important in this transaction is the requirement for a controller permit from the Minister of Finance, and not so much a foreign investment license.

In light of these facts, Imbert admonished the newspaper for its report on the issue.

“…rather than carrying the public on a completely unnecessary wild goose chase about the requirement for a foreign investment license for the takeover of GHL, and thus propagating more fake news, it would have been far better and in the public’s interest if the newspaper and its editors had simply acquainted themselves with the provisions of applicable laws.”

 Imbert ended by noting that the Act states that in granting a controller permit, the Minister of Finance must give consideration, among other things, to whether “the size of, and concentration of economic power in, the combination of the proposed acquirer and the licensee will prevent or lessen substantially, or is likely to prevent or lessen substantially, competition in the financial services industry in Trinidad and Tobago”.

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