By Natario McKenzie
Business Tribune Reporter
Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest said yesterday the Minnis administration has the best opportunity to restore value to Bank of The Bahamas, telling this newspaper the government would not have injected $166m into the struggling bank if it did not believe it could turn it around.
"I think that we have the best opportunity certainly to restore value to the bank. I am very confident in the board that we have. They will have the full support of the government and we believe that we will be able to turn it around. We wouldn't be investing $166m if I didn't believe that there is an opportunity for the Bank for The Bahamas. At the end of the day, we believe in the professionalism and the ability of Bahamians," Mr Turnquest told Tribune Business yesterday.
The latest rescue will remove some $166m worth of "toxic" commercial loans from BOB's balance sheet and transfer them to the Bahamas Resolve special purpose vehicle (SPV). The loans, which are to be paid for at gross book value, will be exchanged for promissory notes (government IOUs or bonds) that will be provided by Bahamas Resolve. This will fill the hole left on BOB's balance sheet by the removal of the impaired loans.
"We are going to give them every opportunity to be successful. It is unfortunate that the bank got to this point but as we give the bank the opportunity to solve its issues, we will also diligently pursue those loans that we taken on to the Resolve Corporation to ensure that the Bahamian people are able to recover as much of those delinquent loans as possible. At the end of the day, this is a tremendous investment for the Bahamian people and we must return shareholder value to them," Mr Turnquest added.
Bahamas Resolve is the special purpose vehicle (SPV) created in October 2014 to facilitate the rescue of Bank of the Bahamas. The "bail out" saw a collective $45.2m in "bad loans", belonging to 13 delinquent borrowers, transferred from the BISX-listed institution to Bahamas Resolve, with the subsequent 'hole' in the bank's balance sheet plugged by $100m worth of government bonds.
The interest payments due to Bank of the Bahamas on those bonds were supposed to be serviced by the proceeds from Bahamas Resolve's sale/liquidation of "distressed assets" securing those loans - mainly high-end and apartment-style residential properties, together with some business premises.
Opposition financial services spokesman and Exuma MP Chester Cooper yesterday backed the Minnis administration's BOB rescue. In a statement, Mr Cooper noted that there was "no getting around" the fact that BOB has been in trouble over the course of several administrations. He noted that the government and ultimately the Bahamian taxpayers will be on the hook for the $166m to be transferred and the $100m transferred under the previous administration.