Caribbean Business And Finance Report

EXXOn-Guyana
$300 million of ExxonMobil oil revenue hangs in the balance
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Compiled By NAN Business Editor

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. March 13, 2020: Here are some of the top business and finance news making headlines across the Caribbean this week.

Regional

A top Caribbean economist is warning that COVID-19 could drastically impact the region’s economy, especially its tourism industry and related sectors.

Director of Economics at the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr Justin Ram, says the crisis was likely to impact jobs and lower tax yields if tourism to the region decline.

“If we have a hit on tourism, it is not only the tourism industry that is likely to be impacted. There are also these indirect impacts,” he told a panel at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Monday on ‘COVID 19: Partnering in the Caribbean’s Response.’ “So for example, in some of our countries the agriculture sector provides significant inputs to tourism, and if tourism is impacted there is a reduced demand and there will be a knock-on reduced demand for agricultural products and knock-on reduced demand for taxi drivers.”

Ram also said that there needs to be a fiscal response when it comes to dealing with this particular crisis.

“We have to think about how we support the economy at this time . . . we have to think about how we support labor markets and how we support the private sector,” he said, while also suggesting that governments start thinking about providing health insurance to help the less fortunate pay for medical bills associated with the virus.

IMF

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says growth is expected to be “moderate going forward” in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The ECCU groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat and Anguilla.

The directors underscored the importance of fiscal integration and suggested enhanced cooperation in the design of tax incentives and the CBI, noting that such efforts would not only improve governance and limit a “race to the bottom”, but they could also create additional fiscal space.

They added that, over the longer term, a regional stabilization fund—underpinned by a strong governance framework—could also be considered.

Guyana

As the Guyana election crisis continues, more than 6 dozen international human rights, environmental, and democratic organizations, including Urgewald of Germany and Bretton Woods Project, are urging ExxonMobil and other oil companies operating in Guyana to follow the lead of the international community and declare clearly, and unequivocally, that they will only conduct business with a lawfully installed government.

The groups also slammed the World Bank and other international financial institutions – both private and public that are financing the opening of Guyana as the newest extractive frontier, for their silence.

“We call on the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and all other financial bodies to join the international community in calling for a fair and transparent tabulation of the votes and the installation of the legitimately and democratically elected government,” the statement added.

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt’s scooter company, Bolt Mobility, has closed a Series A funding round, bringing its total investment to $30 million. Now valued at $100 million, the Miami Beach startup operates 5,000 scooters in cities from Fort Lauderdale to Paris. The news comes as reports also indicate the company is locked in bitter litigation with co-founder Ben Einstein.

Puerto Rico

Michael Williams, a US businessman who lives in Puerto Rico and manages investment funds for two government agencies, could face trial by jury after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit accusing him of a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme.

In court, Williams will face 15 charges for the violation of several provisions of the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.

The claims includes: the use of means of communication, mail and transportation of interstate commerce to defraud; obtaining money and property through false statements and omission of data; carrying out transactions, practices or conduct fraudulent business to defraud buyers; using mechanisms, schemes or devices to defraud in relation to the purchase of securities; serving as an “investment advisor” to defraud; and illicit enrichment, among other possible crimes.

Barbados

Regional giant, GraceKennedy, has hinted that it may soon be listing its Barbados subsidiary, SigniaGlobe Financial Group on that country’s stock exchange in furtherance of its regional expansion plan.

CEO Don Webby, Chief Executive Officer of the GraceKennedy Group told Barbados TODAY that while no decision has yet been taken, it is seriously considering listing SigniaGlobe Financial on the Barbados Stock Exchange (BSE).

SigniaGlobe Financial Group is in the business of offering financial services to the Bajan market. Listing SigniaGlobe Financial on the BSE is seen as a viable option for GraceKennedy, as it expands throughout the Caribbean.

Suriname

The government of Suriname, the former Dutch colony in South America, is threatening legal action against The Fruit Farm Group, a company owned by Belgian industrialist Hein Deprez.

The Fruit Farm Group had until recently a banana plantation in Suriname, but recently pulled out leaving the plantation untended.

The Suriname government owns 10% of the company’s shares. The remainder were bought by Deprez in 2014 for $32 million. Last year a Dutch subsidiary declared bankruptcy, and the previous year The Fruit Farm Group made losses of €25 million on sales of €105 million.

The Suriname agriculture minister has now threatened legal action, after the company explained its departure was due to “the unclear financial and economic situation of Suriname, which in recent years has only worsened.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

St. Vincent and the Grenadines designer Kimya Glasgow has successfully launched her signature fragrance with the support of the INTERREG Trade Enhancement for the Eastern Caribbean (TEECA) project, which is coordinated by the Chamber of Commerce of Martinique (CCI Martinique) along with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Territorial Collectivity of Martinique and the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export).

The Vincentian entrepreneur has now taken her craft to the next level by launching her signature fragrance ‘Vanilla Orchid’ last month, as a result of the partnership concluded with Parfums des îles, a popular perfume brand in Martinique.

At the fragrance launch, Glasgow said she was honoured to collaborate with the Martinique-based company noting that Kimya Glasgow Designs is now the first fashion house that has its signature fragrance in the entire Caribbean.Since 2014, Glasgow has also been a major participant and beneficiary of several of the OECS Competitive Business Unit (OECS CBU) program interventions, and technical assistance programs in the fashion and design sub-sector, especially under the ‘Regional Integration for Trade’ program funded by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).

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