By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Government’s joint venture partner in efforts to reform New Providence’s landfill is a 60 per cent majority foreign-owned company that was initially formed, and registered, by Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis’s law firm.
Documents seen by Tribune Business show that Renew Bahamas, which is negotiating a five-year contract to manufacture recycled products from the landfill’s waste streams, was formed and incorporated just months after the Christie administration’s May 2012 general election victory.
The company also appears to have a link to one of the British Colonial Hilton’s owners. One of Renew Bahamas’ two listed directors is Gerhard Beukes, a former investment manager at Adurion Capital, the boutique investment house that is one of the downtown resort’s two shareholders.
Renew Bahamas was formed on July 16, and registered on September 13, 2012, by Davis & Company, which became its initial registered office. Documents show the attorney that registered Renew Bahamas as a domestic company was Philip McKenzie, a partner in Davis & Co.
There is nothing to suggest that the Deputy Prime Minister had any involvement with Renew Bahamas’ registration, as he has given up day-to-day involvement in his law firm. Nor have Mr McKenzie or Davis & Co done anything wrong,
The paper trail seen by Tribune Business shows that Renew Bahamas switched its registered office from Davis & Co to the McKinney, Turner & Company law firm on February 6, 2013.
Michael Turner, a partner in that firm, told the Registrar General: “Pursuant to the provisions of the Companies Act, I have the honour to inform you that the registered office of the company was changed from the Chambers of Messrs Davis & Co to Messrs McKinney, Turner & Company.”
The documents show that Renew Bahamas appears to have a mix of Bahamian and foreign shareholders, with the equity split weighted 40/60 in favour of the latter.
The Companies Registry files list two directors, Mr Beukes and Een Colebrooke, who appears to be a Bahamian. Mr Beukes is now an executive with London-based Aubaine Capital, a boutique investment/finance house that was spun-off from Adurion via management buyout in 2011.
Apart from touting its investment in the British Colonial Hilton (which it and its Canadian pension fund partner, the Canadian Commercial Workers Industry Pension Plan, have been trying to sell), Aubaine’s website lists another of its holdings as ITI Energy.
This is described as a manufacturer of a gasification system that is “particularly suited” to the conversion of household waste typically found in landfills, transforming this into fuel that can drive combustion engines and produce energy.
“It is a very efficient system converting 1 tonne of palletized [waste] into 1MWh of electric power and 1.5 MWh of thermal energy, after subtracting the parasitic load,” Aubaine’s website said of ITI Energy’s main product.
Mr Beukes is a non-executive director of ITI Energy, whose three projects to-date are all based in the UK.
His connections to ITI Energy, and the company’s technology and applications, are likely to fuel concerns among rival groups that Renew Bahamas may also have a ‘lock’ on the future development of a waste-to-energy plant at the landfill.
Kenred Dorsett, minister of the environment, last week said the Government did not want to tie the landfill’s remediation and recycling to any waste-to-energy initiative, hence its decision to go with Renew Bahamas and negotiate a five-year joint venture agreement with it.
The Minister also said any waste-to-energy discussion, and possible tender, would have to wait until the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) reform process was complete.
Apart from remediation and better environmental management efforts at the landfill, Mr Dorsett said Renew Bahamas would also share the revenues it generated from manufacturing recycled waste products with the Government.
Yet a leading waste services provider, Waste Not’s Ginny McKinney, last week slammed the “secrecy” surrounding the Government’s landfill plans and negotiations with Renew Bahamas, suggesting the whole process lacked transparency.
Mr Dorsett described these charges as “disingenuous at best”, but Tribune Business understands that many groups interested in the New Providence landfill - both Bahamian and foreign - feel the Government has not been comparing ‘apples with apples’ in terms of assessing offers made to-date because there is no structured process, and it is unclear what it wants.
In contrast to Renew Bahamas’ majority foreign ownership, the four-strong, 100 per cent-owned Bahamian consortium of Bahamas Waste, Waste Not, Impac and United Sanitation had pledged an initial public offering (IPO) of shares to the Bahamian people if their landfill bid was successful.
“We were promising a publicly traded company, keeping it in Bahamian hands so there’s Bahamian ownership,” Ms McKinney told Tribune Business in a previous interview.
And, contrary to Mr Dorsett’s suggestion that the group’s offer hinged on a waste-to-energy plant component, Ms McKinney indicated the group had put forward a staged offer.
“In the first instance, we had put together a bid that dealt with an increased tipping fee, just to cover the costs of landfill management and remediation,” she explained.
Ms McKinney said this would have involved a $12 million investment by the all-Bahamian group in the first year, with tipping fees increasing from $10 per load to $23 per tonne to cover the work costs.
The tipping fee would then have reverted back to $10 once the Bahamian group was able to move forward on a proposed waste-to-energy plant, an investment Ms McKinney said would have totalled $100-$120 million.
Emphasising that the landfill clean-up and remediation was “not a cheap thing; it has to be paid for”, Ms McKinney said the group focused on the facility’s “highest use”, which was waste-to-energy.
“We wanted to come up with something the Government could see, plan and work with for a number of years,” she added. “That’s why we came out with waste-to-energy. It has to earn money to make all this stuff happen.”
Ms McKinney said she was first involved with a joint venture bid to take over the landfill 14 years ago. “It was $11 million for what was there then,” she recalled. “That was what we presented and it never went anywhere.”