Is it goodbye, my Bajan Banks beer?

Back in the 1970s, our own Richard Stoute had a hit song that opened with the touching words “Sogoodbye now, my Bajan girl. I hope to see you some day”.

From how things are panning out, it seems Barbados could pretty well soon be singing “So goodbye now, my Bajan Banks”, as the possibility has increased over the past week that full ownership of the local brewery and beverage conglomerate could end up in foreign hands.

Banks Holdings Ltd (BHL), parent company of three subsidiaries that produce Banks beer, soft drinks and the popular Pine Hill Dairy range of products, is the current target of a takeover bid by two foreign entities –– the St Lucian-based SLU Beverages Ltd and the Trinidadian-based ANSA McAl Group.

While Stoute sang with the confident hope of seeing his Bajan girl sometime again in the future, it is unlikely, however, that Barbados will ever see significant ownership of Banks falling back into local hands if control passes to foreign interests. Therefore, it is more likely to be “adieu” –– “goodbye forever” –– to quote the French, instead of “au revoir”, meaning “see you again”.

Both SLU Beverages Ltd, which became the single largest shareholder in Banks sometime ago, and the ANSA McAl Group already have substantial interests in the beer and beverage industry with the well-known Presidente and Carib beer brands respectively. Hence, there is reasonable concern that a takeover in either case could lead eventually to the demise of the Banks beer brand which, like flying fish, is a symbol of Barbados.

It was on these grounds that a group of concerned BHL shareholders initially came out against the offer from SLU Beverages after a senior executive of AmBev SA, the parent company, suggested that a Banks takeover could be used as a platform for pushing Presidente beer. In the case of ANSA McAl which has provided fierce competition for Banks in the local market for several years, Carib, its flagship beer, is marketed as the Beer Of The Caribbean.

If Banks has such sentimental value to Barbados, as some are contending, why then are Barbadian interests not lining up with their own offers to take over the company to ensure it remains in local hands, especially given the outcry in recent years over ownership of key local assets passing into foreign hands? In our open market, Barbadians are just as free as foreign interests to put in a bid.

Ruling out the likelihood of his company making a bid, leading entrepreneur Ralph “Bizzy” Williams told Barbados TODAY yesterday that the reluctance of Barbadians to invest stemmed from our being “risk-averse”. There is another reason too.

Ralph “Bizzy” Williams
Ralph “Bizzy” Williams

Our major companies, by and large, are trading entities which are happy making money from buying and selling, instead of investing in the production of goods where there is much greater risk.

Effectively addressing the risk-averse nature of Barbadians requires a fundamental change of mindset. Otherwise, more local assets will fall into foreign hands while Barbadian money remains safely tucked away in commercial bank deposits. At the same time, though, one must be cognizant of the fact that many ordinary Barbadians who took the risk and invested, ended up being burnt. In some cases, they lost their life savings.

Even when SLU Beverages became the single largest shareholder in Banks some time ago, some concern was expressed about how this was done and the undermining effect on small investors. Human nature is such that once bitten, twice shy.

If small investors believe they are nothing more than helpless players in a power game where large shareholders have the clout to do as they wish, it is going to be difficult to change the reluctance of the average Barbadian to invest in companies.

Yet, Barbados needs to nurture an investing culture, especially to take advantage of opportunities within the region under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and beyond. An investing culture can only be built on a foundation of confidence, resulting from the creation of an enabling environment through the adoption of an appropriate policy framework.

It is in this critical area where Government intervention can make a difference in support of national development.

8 Responses to Is it goodbye, my Bajan Banks beer?

  1. carson c cadogan October 24, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    In the interest of accuracy, Banks Beer is Guyanese not Bajan.

    The only thing Bajan about Bank Beer is the water and labour which goes into it.

    • bajanguyster October 26, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      why do people like you dont get your facts right ? gosh people

  2. Mike October 25, 2015 at 9:43 am

    I believe if a call went out to average Barbadians to pool their resources under a group to save Banks, I for sure will gladly take part. Break it down in layman terms and I believe we can save our beer from these valtures.

    • KENNETH McGILL October 26, 2015 at 11:47 am

      Though I am not Bajan, I would like to be part of this group to keep Banks Bajan.

  3. Shareholder October 27, 2015 at 6:45 am

    Ms. Jordan, have you contacted ANSA regarding SLU’s increased offer of $5.60 for BHL?

  4. Geoquip October 28, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    It’s just a stupid beer people,this is how business works,why attach so much sentiments and emotions for a watery beer? It doesn’t say much for your morale as Bajans. How can you subject yourselves to this emotional self abuse for a dotish beer,lol allyuh jokey yes.

    I’m a Trini and Carib remains ours or not it doesn’t make a difference. Also I don’t believe Ansa or anyone would buy your precious Banks to remove it as a brand,that would only open the door for another competitor to fill that slot.

    But isn’t this a Guyanese entity BTW?

  5. Geoquip October 28, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Also if this is your product you should be flattered that people are clamoring over it,liquidate it and give birth to another successful product,and do it again.

    Waaaaays rel dolly house ting wit allyuh yes,lol.

    “Oh no not moi Banks,I cannot be a Babajan without me Banks laddy,it’s loike mi flyuin fish,nature blessed me with it for a time but I think it should be moine all de toime”

    lol get it together people..

  6. Shareholder November 1, 2015 at 2:24 am

    Ms. Jordan, why would the regulators have to tell the BHL directors to take a matter regarding the rights attaching to shares to the shareholders when sections 28, 197, 202 and 203 of the companies act ( appear to address that?


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