By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas Telecommunications Company’s (BTC) controlling shareholder will enable Perry Christie to claim he has regained majority ownership for Bahamians by handing two per cent of its equity stake to a foundation, in a ‘face saving’ deal.
This is the main feature of the agreement that has been worked out by London-based Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) and the Christie administration’s negotiating team, with nothing changing at BTC in terms of its daily operations.
The key terms, as revealed by well-placed sources to Tribune Business yesterday, are:
• CWC will retain Board and management control at BTC.
An entity, called The BTC Foundation, will be created to own the two per cent equity stake that CWC is relinquishing in the privatised carrier.
The foundation, a trust-type structure, will make donations to a variety of Bahamian social and community projects.
This will leave both CWC and the Government with matching 49 per cent equity stakes in BTC.
There is no indication that the agreement with CWC involves an extension to BTC’s three-year post-privatisation cellular monopoly, which is due to expire on April 6, 2014.
There had been fears CWC would seek an extension to this in return for relinquishing majority control, something that would have denied Bahamian consumers the benefits of reduced prices, improved services and greater choice stemming from competition.
The details of the deal were effectively confirmed by panicky phone calls to Tribune Business from BTC and government-related sources, who - informed of this newspaper’s likely article - asked whether it had a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed between CWC and the Government.
Offers were also made to this newspaper to ‘drop the story’, in return for ‘exclusive interviews’ with unnamed persons.