Apr 21, 2016 News
-Hong Kong investor claims deal was for US$25M
In 2012, the then Government under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) announced that it had sold its 20 percent shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) to Datang Telecom Technology and Industry
Group for US$30M.
US$25M was collected by the Government with Datang Telecom Technology and Industry Group, a Hong Kong investor, expected to pay the balance over a two-year period.
There were questions over the deal. GTT, which has the monopoly on landline and international calls, reportedly said that it never saw the new shareholder.
Fast forward four years later, the deal by the PPP/C administration is still continuing to evoke questions.
Recently, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, travelled to China to explore how Guyana can collect that remaining US$5M ($1B).
What he found there was not so comforting for Guyana.
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, who hosted Government’s post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday, in responding to questions about that US$5M, made some disclosures.
He said that Minister Harmon has provided a full report on that matter to the Cabinet of Ministers. The Board of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), according to Trotman, is considering the findings and these will be made public shortly.
“What I can say is that (Minister) Harmon has been able to retrieve some documents which tell a different story…that being that the money was paid and we are trying to track down to who, how, where and when.”
This happened before May 16, 2015, the official stressed. That date is significant as it was when President David Granger was sworn in.
Other government officials yesterday, close to NICIL, which had handled the sale of the shares, said that Datang, the investor, is insisting that they paid the full amount- US$25M and that they don’t owe anything more.
“What we have to figure out is whether the price was US$25M or US$30M. Why would NICIL say the price was US$30M? These questions have to be answered.”
In fact NICIL’s Board had raised questions about the actual contract between that entity and Datang.
Significantly also, Datang had never before claimed it had paid off the monies. This is the first time there has been any word from them.
From all indications, NICIL under its former chief, Winston Brassington’s management, was in such a haste to sell Government’s share in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) Company that it failed terribly to formulate a proper sale agreement.
Earlier this year, Chairman of NICIL’s Board of Directors, Dr. Maurice Odle, told Kaieteur News that Datang is now saying that it will not pay up unless it is given more seats on GTT’s Board of Directors. It would fly in the face of that US$25M claim by Datang.
The 20 percent shares it now owns only entitles Datang to one seat on the Board. However, the company is holding out that it must inherit all that the Government of Guyana enjoyed while it was in possession of the shares.
The merit of NICIL’s decision to sell the shares was questioned by auditors. The NICIL audit report revealed that a considerable amount of revenue, up to $500M annually, has been lost due to that sale.
During the period 2002-2011, Government received $5.261B in dividends from the shares, or an average of $526.1M per annum. The audit report stated that government suffered a major loss in the disposal of the shares and that the sale was a blunder.
Auditors say that by disposing of the shares, “the Government would have lost $1.578B, equivalent to US$7.616M, in revenue during the period 2012-2014.”
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