Oct 30, 2015 News
Days after Government said that it was buying out shares in the Berbice River Bridge Company Inc (BBCI), the company has announced that it will be accepting an offer by the administration to pay a subsidy in order to effect a proposed toll reduction in the charges to cross the bridge.
According to a formal announcement yesterday, the management of BBCI indicated that they have submitted a proposal to the coalition government, accepting its proposed $40M subvention towards reduction of the toll.
It was noted that the Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson, stated that indeed the proposal was sent by the company, indicating their willingness to accept the subvention, being offered by the government, and that the document is with Cabinet currently being reviewed.
“It is expected that before the end of the week, feedback will be given.”
It was noted that Dr. Surendra Persaud, who is a representative of the BBCI’s Board of Directors, said the proposal covers multiple aspects of the relationship between the BBCI and the administration.
“Our proposal deals with the subsidy and other aspects of the relationship of the bridge company and the government, reduced into a legal framework…While it is open to be amended, government still has to perform due diligence by ensuring they agree with the clauses of the proposal,” Dr Persaud said.
Egbert Carter, BBCI’s Chairman, has indicated that while much was said regarding the inability of the company to readily accept the subsidy proposal, there was need to first notify the shareholders and “now that they would have agreed, we can accept the proposal made by the administration”.
The BBCI had first rejected the government’s offer of the financial support on the premise that its shareholders were not consulted on the matter.
The government, in an effort to relieve the travelling public from paying high tolls, had implemented at a subsidized cost river taxis operating on the Berbice River.
This past week government, through the Prime Minister and First Vice President Moses Nagamootoo, had announced that there was a major breakthrough as government seeks to reduce the tolls charged to cross the Berbice River Bridge, as one of the shareholders has offered to sell its shares owned in the Berbice Bridge Company Inc (BBCI) to the Government of Guyana.
Nagamootoo announced that Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) has agreed to sell government the 40 million shares it owns in the bridge company.
According to Nagamootoo, the company has called an asking price of some $45M, but he is optimistic however that through negotiations a better price could be arrived at.
In making the announcement, 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, Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Government, such as the introduction of the river taxis. This, he said, was done to “ease the pressures and burdens of the people who use the bridge.”
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 belonged 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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