Compiled By NAN Business Editor
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Oct. 2, 2020: Here are some of the top business and finance news making headlines across the Caribbean this week.
The Washington, D.C.-based SEAF Caribbean SME Growth Fund has acquired a majority ownership interest in Camex Restaurants Inc. in Guyana, which will enable the fast food restaurant franchisee to push its growth and expansion plans.
Camex Restaurants Inc. is Guyana’s largest restaurant operator, boasting some 28 franchise/locations spread across the country with five, brands including Church’s Chicken, Dairy Queen, Pollo Tropical, Mario’s Pizza and Quiznos.
Founded in 2006, Camex has grown from strength to strength employing at its peak a staff complement of over 380 team members of which approximately 80% are women. Founder Terrence Campbell said he felt that it was time to bring in an international partner to drive through the next phase of growth. The investment in Camex is the first for the SEAF Fund which was launched last October with its regional office in Kingston Jamaica. With this new partnership, Camex plans to develop and add new brands to its portfolio, whilst simultaneously expanding operations across the Caricom region.
The SEAF Caribbean SME Growth Fund, is a private equity fund which invests growth capital in fast growing small and medium-sized enterprises throughout the countries of the Caribbean Common Market (Caricom).
SEAF’s investment in Camex Restaurants Inc. was directed by its Sr. Managing Director Latin America & Caribbean Kurt M.A. Kisto and led by the SEAF Caribbean Fund Managing Director Leo Williams, supported by SEAF’s VP Jamal Abisourour.
Meanwhile, entrepreneurs, business leaders, senior government officials, members of civil society and other influencers from the Caribbean and around the world, attended the virtual Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Republic Bank Limited’s (RBL) Sustainable Development Movement (SDM) 2020 Summit from September 23-24.
The high-point of the Summit’s was the conclusion of the Business Model Competition, which began in July, when 30 of the region’s high growth potential entrepreneurs were selected to undergo eight-weeks of capacity building through a virtual accelerator programme.
Three big winners emerged triumphant from the finals, which took the form of a live Shark-Tank-style pitch session hosted by Daymond John, star of ABC’s Shark-Tank, and President of the Shark Group.
Alex Straun of Genesis Payment Solutions, Saint Kitts and Nevis took home the third place prize of US$5,000; Trevaun Solomon of Project Jaguar, The Home of The Teacherpreneur, Antigua and Barbuda, took home the second place prize of US$10,000; and the crowd favourite, Jody White of Slimdown 360 Ltd, Trinidad and Tobago, took home the first place prize of US$20,000.
Meanwhile, regional arilines, Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is set to send home one-third of its staff for the next three months, as the airline struggles to cope with the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a release on Tuesday morning, CAL said it also would cut the salaries of those who are paid more than $7,500 a month for eight months, starting in mid-October. The higher the salary, the bigger the cuts, the release said.
Payara is the third project in the Stabroek Block and is expected to produce up to 220,000 barrels of oil per day after startup in 2024, using the Prosperity floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel. The $9 billion development will target an estimated resource base of about 600 million oil-equivalent barrels. Ten drill centers are planned along with up to 41 wells, including 20 production and 21 injection wells.
“ExxonMobil is committed to building on the capabilities from our Liza Phase 1 and 2 offshore oil developments as we sanction the Payara field and responsibly develop Guyana’s natural resources,” said Liam Mallon, president of ExxonMobil Upstream Oil & Gas Company. “We continue to prioritize high-potential prospects in close proximity to discoveries and maximize value for our partners, which includes the people of Guyana.”
ExxonMobil’s first offshore Guyana project, Liza Phase 1, began producing in late 2019, well ahead of the industry average for development time. Liza Phase 2, remains on track to begin producing oil by early 2022. It will produce up to 220,000 barrels of oil per day at peak rates using the Liza Unity FPSO, which is under construction in Singapore.
The news comes as Guyana’s new President, Mohammed Irfaan Ali, has said that his administration is looking to expand beyond the oil sector including having four new branded hotels constructed here over the next five years.
The President made this disclosure during a recent interview with Jamaica’s CEEN TV – ‘The Conversation,’ noting that the government has already launched Expressions of Interest for the hotels. Ali said that while the petroleum sector has emerged as one of the most important to Guyana’s economy, the government is focusing on expanding and making the traditional sectors more competitive.
Saint Lucia has has slashed the cost of securing a passport there by 50 percent – at least through the end of the year. The Saint Lucia Citizenship by Investment Program’s cost now start at USD 250,000, down from 500,000. There is also a $100,000 option if you choose a government donation. The program was launched in 2015, enabling foreign investors and families to acquire a second passport in just 3–4 months with visa-free access to over 132 countries worldwide.
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad’s First Citizens Investment Services (FCIS), has bought into Barita Investments Limited, taking up five per cent of the company’s shares in the recently successful additional public offer (APO), Jamaica Observer reports indicate.
The Trinidad-based investment bank, which is a fully owned subsidiary of First Citizens Bank Limited, is now a minority shareholder in the Jamaican investment and brokerage firm. The disclosure of the acquisition was made by Barita in a regulatory filing with the Jamaica Stock Exchange, where its shares are traded.
FCIS is a registered securities broker-dealer in the countries in which it operates, namely: Trinidad & Tobago, St Lucia, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines. In its regulatory filing Barita reported that FCIS has total assets under management of approximately US$3.2 billion, which includes both proprietary and client assets, offers investment management products and services to its customers.
The parent company, FCB, is a publicly traded company on the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange with just over US$6 billion in assets and equity of over US$1 billion. It has an investment grade credit rating of BBB from the international ratings agency Standard & Poor’s.
The local team tasked with monitoring the International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme is raising concern that Government will find it increasingly difficult to meet its targets for the coming fiscal year, Barbados Today reports indicate.
The BERT Monitoring Committee made this prediction in its latest report for the period April to June, while adding that government may need to go back to the IMF to seek further tweaks to some target dates.
Lauding the government for achieving its performance targets for the review period, especially the primary balance surplus of one per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and growth in the international reserves, the committee said this continued to be achieved in spite of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the team, which is made up of representatives from the private sector, labour union and creditors’ group, said it was concerned about some challenges ahead.
Premier Andrew Fahie appears to have softened his government’s stance on the United Kingdom’s push for the overseas territories to enact public registers of beneficial owner- ship by 2023, the BVI Beacon reports. For months, the Virgin Islands was the sole holdout as other territories and Crown dependencies agreed to work toward the measure, which the UK Parliament required as part of the Sanctions and Anti- Money Laundering Act 2018.
But speaking in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, the premier said his government “commits to work in collaboration with [the UK government] towards a publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership for companies in line with international standards and best practices as they develop globally and, at least, as implemented by the [European Union] member states, by 2023, in furtherance of the EU Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive.”
Antigua & Barbuda
The UAE-Caribbean Renewable Energy Partnership Fund has announced the start of construction for a hurricane-resistant clean energy plant in Antigua and Barbuda to help the twin-island nation recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The US$50 million Fund, the largest renewable energy investment of its type in the region, is the result of a partnership between the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC), the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), and Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar). The Green Barbuda project is being developed with joint funding from the UAE and New Zealand and the Caribbean Development Group Fund, and implemented by Masdar. Site preparation, network impact assessment, and geotechnical studies have been completed for the project, which will support Antigua and Barbuda’s efforts to recover sustainably and help create new jobs.
V.I. lawmakers put the brakes on a so-called “Christmas tree” bill at the tail end of Wednesday’s legislative session including a bill that would have stopped senators from getting a $15,000 pay raise, the Virgin Islands Daily News reported.
“Failure to act on this amendment means that senators will give themselves an automatic pay raise,” said Sen. Kenneth Gittens, one of four senators who voted against tabling the bill. “They obviously shut the session down because of this amendment.”
A clause in V.I. law requires the salaries of senators be tied to that of the lowest-paid Executive Branch commissioner — in this case, the commissioner of Sports, Parks and Recreation, who makes $85,000 a year. With the commissioner poised to get a $15,000 pay increase in fiscal year 2021, so too will lawmakers. On Wednesday, Sen. Javan James Sr. sought to do away with this provision in a non-germane amendment to Bill 33-0198, which dealt with increasing penalties for the illegal importation of snakes. However, before James could bring his amendment to the floor, Sen. Athneil Thomas, a primary sponsor of Bill 33-0198, requested his bill be removed from the agenda, insisting it needed more work. Despite James’ objection, the Senate voted 10-4 to remove the bill from the agenda.
A debit card backed by remittances that recently became popular in Cuba because people can use it to buy home appliances, food and replacement parts has landed on the U.S. government’s restricted list.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Monday that Cuba’s military controls American International Services and uses parent company FINCIMEX and other entities to “charge fees and manipulate the remittance and foreign currency market…The profits earned from these operations disproportionately benefit the Cuban military, furthering repression of the Cuban people and funding Cuba’s meddling in Venezuela.
Domincan Republic’s Minister of Tourism, David Collado, warned this week that the tourism industry “is about to collapse” because of the crisis caused by the coronavirus, for which he called for a joint effort to recover this sector, vital for the national economy.
“It is an entire industry that is about to collapse,” said the official at a press conference to discuss the incentive for local tourism, presented by the government last Wednesday as part of the plan to reactivate that sector.
The official compared the situation that the tourism industry is going through with that of a patient “in critical condition” so he appealed to the “sensitivity” of the Dominicans to “protect” it.
In his speech, Collado stressed that “all the economic areas of our country can be recovered, but if we do not recover tourism (the general economy) it will not rise.”
Turks And Caicos
Premier and Minister of Finance Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson says the Turks and Caicos Islands is heading towards a recession, according to TCI Sun reports.
“The trigger point for a recession is usually two consecutive quarters of negative growth. All indications are that, despite having to go on lockdown at the end of March, the country experienced economic growth in the first quarter of this year,” she said during a national press conference recently.
“The second quarter, undoubtedly because of the necessary restrictions which had to be imposed, saw minimal activity and even though the level of activity in this quarter was more than the activity in the second quarter, when compared with the level of activity during the third quarter of last year, we are heading towards a second quarter of negative growth. Hence, we can conclude that this economy is heading towards a recession.”
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has ordered Northern Trust Hedge Fund Services LLC and its Cayman fund administration subsidiary Northern Trust Global Fund Services Cayman Limited to pay US$167,629 for regulatory breaches in their role as the administrators for the LR Global Frontier master and feeder funds from January 2016 to August 2017.
The breaches related to an alleged fraud by Donald LaGuardia Jr., who controlled L-R Managers LLC, the investment advisor of the LR Global Frontier funds. The SEC alleges LaGuardia misappropriated approximately $2.6 million from investors and then concealed part of those funds through fraudulent accounting.