Oct 22, 2015 News
One of the shareholders in the Berbice River Bridge has offered to sell its shares in the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) to the Government of Guyana.
Prime Minister and First Vice President, Moses Nagamootoo, made the announcement yesterday, as he hosted his first ever post Cabinet Press engagement at the Ministry of the Presidency.
According to Nagamootoo, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) has agreed to sell Government the 40 million shares it owns in the bridge company. The company has an asking price of some $45M, but Nagamootoo is optimistic that through negotiations a more convenient price could be arrived at.
Nagamootoo told media operatives, “Cabinet accepted the offer made by DDL to sell its shares in the BBCI to the Government of Guyana…The offer comprises of 40 million shares.”
The shares are held by Demerara Contractors and Engineering Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of DDL and represents 10 per cent of the shares in BBCI.
According to Nagamootoo, “This government is determined to reduce the tolls attached to the Berbice River Bridge.”
He drew reference to previous measures taken by the coalition A Partnership for National Unity plus Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Government, such as the introduction of river taxis at a subsidized cost.
This, he said, was done to “ease the pressures and burdens of the people who use the bridge.”
According to the Prime Minister, Government has adopted a position that while negotiating with the bridge company to effect the reduction in the toll, “We are also thinking of how this government can place itself in a better negotiating position, by attracting shares so that it could have a stronger voice in the governing body of this company.”
The Prime Minister said that government was taking its promise for a reduction in the tolls “to a further stage of ensuring that our voice is not a feeble one and that the dominant partners in the Berbice Bridge would recognize that we are serious.”
Prime Minister Nagamootoo has in fact put the shareholders on notice saying, “We are prepared to go even further.”
He announced too, that Cabinet has authorized the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, to conclude the purchase of the shares.
“He (Jordan) has also been advised to seek the best possible price for the shares,” said Nagamootoo.
He said that Government is cognizant of the asking price but is optimistic that “DDL as an outstanding corporate citizen of Guyana would agree to a reasonable settlement of this matter.”
Asked by this publication about any negotiations involving the other shareholders in the company, the Prime Minister said, “I believe what government seeks to do is to send out a broad feeler to all those who have shares.”
The New Guyana Pharmaceutical Company (GPC) which is owned by Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, has 80M in share stock in the Berbice Bridge.
The other principal investors in the bridge include the National Insurance Scheme with an initial 80M shares, Secure International Finance Company with 80M shares, Demerara Contractors which holds 40M shares, Hand in Hand Motor & Life Insurance Company that holds 40M shares and the Colonial Life Insurance Company with 80M shares.
The remaining and overwhelming majority of shares held in the Berbice Bridge Company belong to Government through the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) and stands at $950M in preference shares. This has since been sold to NIS, bringing its share stake to in excess of 1 billion shares.
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