Public still in the dark on BNTCL sale, says Rubis
With the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) looking into the proposed sale of the state-owned Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL) to regional petroleum products giant Sol to determine whether or not it should be approved, Sol’s main competitor is calling for transparency in the process.
The FTC last month invited “all industry participants, representatives of consumer interest groups and other parties that may have an interest in this matter to share their views on the proposed transaction”.
However, Rubis Caribbean, which had put in an unsuccessful bid for BNTCL, is contending that it is virtually impossible to make an informed contribution to the process without details of the key aspects of the proposed deal between Sol and the Freundel Stuart administration.
At the top of Rubis’ list of concerns is the absence of information on how much more it would cost businesses that use the terminal after its sale.
“This is a concern to us because everyone who uses BNTCL would be subject to an increase and we would like to know officially what is the percentage increase,” Chief Executive Officer of Rubis Caribbean Mauricio Nicholls told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
“It is concerning that this was not made available to us in documents we received nor the documents made available to the public, and it would have been better to have that increase disclosed so that we could make an official opinion. In the meantime we have just had to make some assumptions as to what the increase would be and based on those assumptions we made submissions to the FTC,” Nicholls added.
The summary of the proposed acquisition states: “BNTCL has been operating at a sub-optimal rate of return as the Government operated with a different mandate from a private investor. As a result, a condition of the sale is that the throughput fee will be increased across the board to allow the investor a utility rate of return.”
Even though the summary further states that “the increase in the throughput rate resulting from the transaction will have a negligible impact on consumer fuel prices”, Nicholls argued that the public was speculating on this matter.
Similar concerns were raised earlier by leader of the fledgling Barbados Integrity Movement Neil Holder, who had taken issue with the fact that the sale price for the oil terminal was excluded from the summary document.
Nicholls today said while his company had also recognized the omission, he was fairly confident that the sale price was indeed USD$100 million, given that this figure has been repeatedly mentioned in other official documents.
“We are not necessarily worried about the purchase price because there is so much information in news already, which has not been refuted, that I have no reason to believe that it’s wrong. I feel that the purchase price is indeed US$100 million, even though it was not officially disclosed to us,” he said.
In the meantime the Rubis boss told Barbados TODAY while the company awaited the FTC decision, all options remained on the table should the final verdict not go their way.
“We have a number of actions that we have discussed and we will make the decision soon as to when we should start those actions,” he stressed.