Year in Review: Business in Focus
2018 has been an eventful year all-round, especially where business is concerned.
From the closure of the country’s state-owned oil refinery to layoffs at the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT), it’s been hard to keep track.
Here’s a look back at some of the major happenings in the world of business:
1. Petrotrin refinery closed, company restructured
Developments at Petrotrin undoubtedly dominated this year’s news. After much uncertainty about the company’s future, on August 28 it was announced that Petrotrin would be exiting the oil refining business and the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery would be shutdown. The new focus of the company would be its Exploration and Production business.
There was confusion over the number of workers to be affected by the decision: 1700, 2600 and eventually 5000 workers. $2.7 billion in exit payments have been made with permanent workers having received outstanding payments, and temporary and causal staff expected to receive payments by mid-January.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley defended Government’s decision: "We have taken a decision to fix the problem at Pointe-a-Pierre and that decision was based on sound evaluation in the interest, not just of Petrotrin or the Petrotrin workers, but all of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Despite efforts by the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) to present an alternative to the refinery shutdown, the company was closed on November 30.
2. T&T signs Dragon Gas Deal with Venezuela
Trinidad and Tobago opened its doors to the possibility of bilateral trade with Venezuela with the signing of terms for the development of cross-border gas from the Venezuelan Dragon Gas Field.
The deal was finalised on August 25, with a signing ceremony in Venezuela, in spite of accusations largely from the Opposition of a lack of transparency and concerns over the legality of the agreement. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the historic deal will allow Venezuelan gas to be monetised on the international market for the benefit of the people of both nations.
The gas will be transported to the Hibiscus platform off the north-west coast of Trinidad, about 17 kilometres from the gas field. The pipeline project for the Dragon Field gas deal is estimated to cost US$1 billion.
First gas from Dragon is expected in 2020.
3. TSTT in turmoil?
It’s been a tough year for the country’s labour force. Petrotrin workers were not the only ones to find themselves on the breadline as TSTT was among those to be affected by retrenchment - and just ahead of the Christmas season.
The state-owned telecommunications company had a tumultuous year following the news that nine retail stores would be closed as the company moved toward digital transformation, and to stop the continued haemorrhaging of funds.
The company suffered a decline in profits – an almost 80 percent decrease when compared to 2017. The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) warned that this was an effort by TSTT to lay the foundation for massive retrenchment to come, which the state company subsequently denied.
Then, in November, the company embarked on a critical phase of its transformation with the issuance of retrenchment letters to 503 junior and senior members of staff. Tensions between the CWU and TSTT reached their height on December 12, with Union leader Clyde Elder claiming security guards threw him out of the Nelson Exchange building and TSTT disputing his account of the alleged incident.
4. Sagicor agrees to takeover by Canadian company
On November 27, Sagicor announced that it entered into a definitive arrangement agreement with Alignvest Acquisition II Corporation pursuant to which Alignvest will acquire all the shares of Sagicor by way of a scheme of arrangement under the laws of Bermuda, where Sagicor is incorporated, at a price of US$1.75 per share with an aggregate value of approximately US $536 million.
Sagicor said completion of the arrangement is dependent on certain conditions and other regulatory approvals, as well as approval by the shareholders of Alignvest and Sagicor.
If conditions are met, the transaction is expected to close during the first quarter or early in the second quarter of 2019.
The new business combination is to be known as New Sagicor.
5. CinemaONE launches IPO
Despite being undersubscribed by a little over 50 percent, CinemaONE’s initial public offering raised over $14 million.
After being opened for five weeks, the IPO secured 466 purchase applications for 1,444,168 ordinary shares at $10.00 per share, to raise $14,441,680 in new equity.
CinemaONE created history trading as the first company on the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Exchange of the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange (TTSE). It also became the first entertainment company to be listed on the TTSE on any market.
The money raised from the IPO will be used to fund the company’s expansion projects.