Caribbean Business And Finance Report

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Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Michael Holness (2nd L) and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (3rd R) hold a meeting at the Abe's office in Tokyo on December 12, 2019. (Photo by STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)
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Compiled By NAN Business Editor

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Dec. 13, 2019: Here are some of the top business and finance news making headlines across the Caribbean this week.

Regional

The value of exports from Latin America and the Caribbean will decrease by 2.4 percent in 2019 after two years of robust growth, according to a new report by the Inter-American Development Bank that analyzes the trade performance of 25 countries in the region.

The study forecasts that the downturn in exports will continue in the coming months due to slowing global demand, volatility in commodity markets, and uncertainty around global trade tensions.

After growing 8.7 percent in 2018 and 12.2 percent in 2017, the region is set to enter a trade contraction phase for the third time in a decade. The downturn in the value of exports from Latin America and the Caribbean was in line with the trend in global trade, which fell 3.1 percent year-on-year in the first three quarters of 2019.

The contraction was mainly driven by lower export prices and stagnating trade volumes, according to the latest edition of Trade Trends Estimates for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The weakening of exports was caused by a contraction in purchases by the European Union (-7.0 percent), the region itself (-10.8 percent), and particularly those of China (-2.3 percent), which had grown close to 25 percent in 2018. Exports increased 1.0 percent to the United States, the only trading partner driving the expansion of sales from the region, although the pace of growth was much slower than in 2018.

BANKING

Royal Bank of Canada, (RY on TSX and NYSE), on Thursday announced it has entered into definitive agreements to sell all banking operations in the Eastern Caribbean to a consortium of indigenous banks within the region. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions and is expected to be finalized in the coming months.

The sale encompasses the branches of Royal Bank of Canada in Antigua, Dominica, Montserrat, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as regional businesses operating under RBC Royal Bank Holdings (EC) Limited in Nevis, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Collectively, these operations are referred to as “RBC Eastern Caribbean.” The consortium of five financial entities purchasing includes: 1st National Bank of St. Lucia, Antigua Commercial Bank Ltd., National Bank of Dominica Ltd., the Bank of Montserrat and Bank of Nevis Ltd. A consortium of Eastern Caribbean indigenous banks, of which Antigua Commercial Bank is a member, is purchasing the RBC banks.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. RBC will release its first quarter 2020 results and host an earnings conference call on February 21, 2020.

SUGAR

CARICOM sugar producers are aiming to accelerate investments to meet regional market demand.

Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) industries have agreed to make further investments to ensure regionally produced sugar is of a quality suitable for industrial users of sugar. This follows an independent study produced for the CARICOM Secretariat that proved the widespread use of plantation white and other direct consumption sugars in regional and global supply chains. The COTED decision guaranteeing Treaty protection for regional sugar once this is achieved helps to underpin that investment.

Last month’s Trade Ministers’ decision at COTED to the incremental protection of regionally produced sugars when it meets the standards required by regional users of sugar was discussed at this week’s meeting of Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) Directors.

Several regional industries in Belize and Guyana have already embarked on significant investment programs aimed at meeting regional demand. Already the region producers almost double CARICOM’s annual sugar demand, but two thirds of that demand continues to be filled with extra regional imported sugar dumped into the CARICOM market tariff free, forcing CARICOM producers out of their own market.

Guyana

Exxon Mobil Corporation XOM and Hess Corporation HES are considering to export oil from Guyana, which is going to be the first-ever shipment of crude from the Latin American country, Reuters has reported. The energy majors aim to export the commodity by early 2020.

So far, a consortium that includes ExxonMobil and Hess has made 14 large discoveries from the offshore resources in Guyana, with resource potential of more than 6 billion oil-equivalent barrels. The consortium expects the offshore fields to be capable of producing daily volumes of 750,000 barrels. Investors should know that the world-class crude discoveries have made the country, with no history of oil production, a prime target for crude explorer.

Trinidad And Tobago

India’s Bank of Baroda Thursday signed a share purchase agreement with Ansa Merchant Bank to sell the business of Bank of Baroda Trinidad & Tobago.

BoB Trinidad & Tobago started its operations in October 2007 as a wholly-owned overseas subsidiary. The sale will need an approval from Central Bank of Trinidad & Tobago. BoB had decided to exit the business way back in May 2017.

Belize

A defendant in an overseas real estate scam case who is representing himself has ten days to hand over documents to the Federal Trade Commission after a federal district court ruled that none of his communications with two other defendants are privileged.

Andris Pukke’s arguments in favor of privilege are “novel” but “doubtful,” Judge Peter J. Messitte of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland wrote in a Dec. 10 opinion.

Defendants Pukke, Peter Baker, and Michael Santos are all representing themselves in a case brought by the FTC, which dubs it “the largest overseas real estate investment scam,” it’s ever targeted.

The FTC alleges that the defendants, which also include real estate developers and a bank, used more than $100 million from consumer investors “to fund their own high-end lifestyles instead of investing the money” in a development in Belize.

USVI/PUERTO RICO

FG Bancorp has secured key regulatory approvals to acquire Scotiabank’s operations in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands (USVI).

The financial holding company received green light from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and Federal Deposit Insurance.

Additionally, the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions of Puerto Rico has also approved the deal.

In June this year, Scotiabank signed an agreement to sell the operations to OFG Bancorp subsidiary Oriental Bank.

As per the agreement, Oriental Bank will pay $550m in cash to purchase the Puerto Rican business and a $10m deposit premium for USVI operations.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Close to 100 local medical professionals are now closer to receiving the green right which will allow them to prescribe or dispense medicinal cannabis in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

This development follows a series of training sessions which were conducted

by the Medicinal Cannabis Authority (MCA). Participants, including medical doctors, veterinarians, dentists, pharmacists as well as technicians from each specialty, received training in the safe and effective use of medicinal cannabis in accordance with international best practices and the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

At the end of each session, participants were awarded Certificates of Training which can be used during the authorization process that will allow local them to prescribe or dispense medicinal cannabis to qualifying patients.

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