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‘We fiddled while Rome burned’

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 01:36

Government is reported to have told the Petrotrin board it could not finance the US$850 million debt to bond holders and gave the company the green light to proceed with the option to shut down the refinery and send home workers.

Well-placed sources told the T&T Guardian that in separate meetings, board chairman Wilfred Espinet made presentations to the upper management and supervisory staff and the unions representing Petrotrin workers detailing the financial state the company had found itself in and the need for hard decisions to be taken.

Espinet is reported to have told the meetings that bankers had told the company in no uncertain terms that they could not give the company working capital because of uncertainty about the company’s ability to repay the US$850m bond.

While there was a view that Government would pay the bond, Espinet is reported to have said the Government told him they could not afford to pay it, telling him that they had just sold shares in the National Investment Fund (NIF) to get money to fund health care and other things.

It was in a scenario where things looked financially hopeless that Espinet is said to have indicated hard decisions had to be taken. He is reported to have said that there was no “joy” in the decision, which was a “heavy burden to bear,” but he said having gone through the financials of the state oil company and having received advice they had no other option.

Petrotrin insiders told the T&T Guardian that Espinet told the unions and management that although the company had been on a downhill financial slide for years, “everybody continued to fiddle while Rome burnt” and that despite significant losses it was business as usual with “increases in salaries and benefits.”

With no money being put back into the system, Espinet is reported to have said that it dug a hole into the balance sheet of the company, “so that the balance sheet is almost insolvent.”

Espinet said top officials of the company who were in a position to know and understand the state of the company operated as though nothing was wrong.

“Our cash flows were tightening, but treasury got into all kinds of fancy footwork of selling cargo long before it was delivered so we could finance the operation,” Espinet reportedly told stakeholders.

At one point shortly after the board came into office, staffers were told the management proposed a budget of TT$16 billion for capital expenditure. Describing what was happening as “crazy” and “unreal”, Espinet said there were proposals to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to lawyers as though they did not see “there will be an impact somewhere.”

In addition, Espinet said skill sets in the organisation had become “distorted” over time because of questionable hiring practices.

International experts who were brought in to assist the board in finding ways to make the company viable advised of the need for significant change in the way things were being done.

An analysis over the next five years was done utilising three options. Details of the options were revealed to the unions, management and Government in separate presentations made by Espinet.

The T&T Guardian obtained copies of the options.

The first was to continue operating as is as an integrated company, with no additional investments and no exits of the company’s 3,400 permanent employees.

But according to the figures, if things stayed as was, the Refinery and Marketing (R&M) was estimated to lose TT$6.8 billion and Exploration and Production’s loss was estimated at TT$400 million, for a total loss of TT$7.2 billion.

If that option were utilised, at the current debt level and because of the amount of money being lost stakeholders were told the company would need to find TT$25 billion, which Espinet said was just under half of the national budget.

Because the company could not afford any more loans, Espinet is reported to have said they would literally have needed to find a Godfather who did not want any return on their investment.

Option 2, titled ‘Improve Financial Performance,’ forecast a headcount loss of 1,500 employees and a requirement for TT$20 billion in investment. But according to the figures presented, it forecast a net loss of TT$4.1B, an E&P contribution of TT$4.7B and a loss in R&M of TT$8.8B. Espinet said if this option was utilised losses in R&M would continue to offset gains made in E&P.

Declaring that the refinery was the problem, he said people who thought otherwise were just “digging their head in the sand.” It was determined that the refinery needed to go. He is reported to have said, “Unless somebody has a magic wand and find the TT$20B we talking about and to find a way for the refinery to make money, we have no option but to deal with the problem.”

The third option, titled ‘Transform Financial Performance of Organisation’, showed that without the refinery, E&P would be a stand-alone company with the ability to cover the company’s debt with a requirement for TT$8B in bridge financing for the first two years. The refinery would be replaced by a terminalling stand-alone company and the exit out of the refinery operations, according to the presentation, would be TT$2B to be borne by the legacy company.

Under this option, a total of 2,400 of the company’s workforce would be sent home, 1,700 from upstream with 45 per cent or 800 of those workers to be rehired. Another 1,700 would be sent home from the refinery operations with the plan being to rehire ten per cent or roughly 200 members of the workforce.

Espinet is reported to have said that this option would pave the way for “a real company that does real work and give people real jobs.”

It was this option which the Government gave the board “the authority to proceed with.”

Questions have been asked about how the board could be painting such a gloomy financial picture when for the first quarter ending in June this year an after-tax profit of $85.6m was recorded.

In response to this, Espinet told the staff that in the three-month period the company had “an increase in inventories that made a major contribution and a few other anomalies,” but he said that should not be “confused” with what was happening every month when the company was losing.

“The balance sheet gets further depletions when you lose money every month,” Espinet said.

Categories: News

429,098 ANSA shares traded

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 23:40

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 18 securities of which three advanced, eight declined and seven traded firm.

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 1,398,011 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $53,090,374.37. ANSA McAL Lltd was the volume leader with 429,098 shares changing hands for a value of $24,029,488.00, followed by JMMB Group Ltd with a volume of 287,285 shares being traded for $488,384.50.

Massy Holdings Ltd contributed 202,274 shares with a value of $9,506,755.60, while The West Indian Tobacco Company Ltd added 131,900 shares valued at $11,594,010.

First Citizens Bank Ltd registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.23 to end the day at $34.24. Conversely, ANSA Merchant Bank Ltd registered the day’s largest decline, falling $2.00 to close at $38.00.

On the mutual fund market 14,428 shares changed hands for a value of $286,873.60. Clico Investment Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 14,028 shares valued at $280,553.60. Clico Investment Fund advanced by $0.01 to end at $20.00.

• The Composite Index declined by 4.05 points (0.33%) to close at 1,237.16.

• The All T&T Index declined by 6.99 points (0.41%) to close at 1,701.30.

• The Cross Listed Index declined by 0.14 points (0.13%) to close at 104.01.

Categories: News

Duke, Imbert meet again on new Revenue Authority

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 23:38

Minister of Finance Colm Imbert and Public Services Association (PSA) president, Watson Duke, have agreed to draft a Memorandum of Understanding on the structure of the proposed Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority.

The decision came following a meeting of ministry representatives and the PSA on Wednesday.

Legislation on the authority is now before a Joint-Select Committee of Parliament and requires a special majority vote.

In a press statement, Imbert said the two parties discussed issued of job security and employee benefits, as well as union representation, the health plan and pension plan.

The minister said he asked the PSA to put their requests in writing so that the ministry can have a clear indication of all the issues.

He said Duke, in response, requested that the MOU be drafted and settled, showing the shape and form that the Revenue Authority would take, and outlining the protection of workers.

Imbert said Duke gave an undertaking that within a month the ministry will get a document from the PSA identifying what their concerns are.

The ministry’s permanent secretary will work with Duke on the drafting of the MOU. Imbert described the meeting as “very cordial” and said they made “a lot of progress”.

Categories: News

T&T Chamber supports Petrotrin’s board decision

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 23:36

The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce supports the recommendations of Petrotrin’s board, according to a media release from that business chamber.

In an address to the media on Tuesday, Petrotrin Chairman Wilfred Espinet said the board recommended shutting down the refinery and retrenching 1,700 workers. “We believe that the company is on the right path to fulfilling its obligations to the State, and towards financing its own business requirements,” the media release said.

The Chamber said that it recognises that employees and contractors of Petrotrin and their families, as well as businesses in the surrounding communities, will be affected by this decision, but trust that all stakeholders can work together to mitigate the negative impact.

The T&T Chamber added that this will call for dialogue, creativity and a willingness to be open to new possibilities and also hopes that the settlement of payments to contractors and other suppliers will be handled responsibly and in a timely manner.

“In today’s global business landscape, any entity must be competitive in order to thrive; we recognise that this is not achievable without significant changes being made to Petrotrin’s current operational structure.

Everyone knew that some action was required, and it is unfortunate that the decision took this long to be made. Perhaps if tougher measures had been taken earlier, when the country was in a better financial position to buffer the impact, the process might have been less traumatic. Sadly, the current economic environment left the board with limited choices.”

The T&T Chamber said that it acknowledges that there is still a great deal to be worked out when it comes to the impact this move will have on the wider population and added that this includes, but is not limited to, the following questions:

• How can the country reintegrate the affected employees back into the workforce or help get them established in start-up business ventures?

• How does the country address the impact of the closure on the refinery’s numerous contractors and their employees?

• What effect will the move have on T&T’s foreign exchange requirements?

• How will it affect the cost of fuel to consumers, industrial users and Caribbean Airlines?

The Chamber concluded that while the scope and magnitude of the shutdown’s effects are currently unknown, the T&T Chamber appreciates that such a tough decision was taken in the nation’s interest. “We caution against impulsive actions which could be counter-productive to making Petrotrin a sustainable enterprise, and strongly recommend frequent communication among all parties during this transitionary period. We stand ready to provide assistance in any way possible.

Categories: News

Payless opens super store in Trincity Mall

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 23:31

T&T’s footwear customers have continued to spend their money on shoes despite the downturn in the economy, according to Jerus Mohammed, country manager, Payless Shoe Source.

“Our T&T customers have always had a high spending power. With the economic downturn we have seen that rate reduced, however, shoes are a necessity in T&T and we have to wear shoes, everyone has to wear shoes. So instead of buying three pairs of shoes, we have found that our customers buy two, but we still do extremely well here,” he told the media yesterday.

Mohammed was speaking at the opening of their new super store in Trincity Mall.

Payless Shoe Source opened its first super store in the English speaking Caribbean yesterday at Trincity Mall, which brings the total number of stores to 22 in T&T.

Payless Shoe Source is the number one speciality footwear retailer in the United States and one of the world’s largest.

The new store is contained in 4,682 square feet on the upper level of the mall and is twice the size of a standard Payless store.

According to information from Payless, the super store concept is designed to give customers a more comfortable shopping experience with wider aisles, more cashiers, more staff and more styles with over 25,000 pairs of shoes in stock at that branch.

Mohammed said their women’s career shoes is the most popular segment.

Denise Bernard, vice president, Latin America and the Caribbean region for Payless Shoe Source, who also spoke at the event, described a super store as “a wide array of shoes that we could not fit into a conventional store.”

She said they had a “soft opening” on Wednesday and since then 2,400 customers have visited the store.

“That is a testament as to the loyalty of our T&T customers and how faithful they are to us.”

She said they opened the super store based on feedback from customers.

“There was a need for more sizes, there was a need for more depth in the product and more variety. What large format stores as this one do is give us the possibility to bring that solution. This has made us the authority in footwear in T&T and in all of the Caribbean.”

Scores of customers filed into the store after the launch.

Ann-Marie, who was accompanied by her daughter, told Guardian Media that they usually buy all their shoes at Payless and came to the new super store to see what bargains that they could have gotten.

“We always check out the sales and the styles we want. We always go to the store in Mausica but today we came to this one to see the variety. This one is much bigger than the one in Mausica and the prices are reasonable.”

Another shopper, who identified himself only as Kelvin, said there was not much difference with other shoe stores.

‘This one really big for sure but other than that I do not see the big difference with other local stores. It is about the same prices,” he said.

Categories: News

T&T NGL, the volume leader

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 06:33

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 12 securities of which two advanced, five declined and five traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 62,323 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $1,316,924.22.

T&T NGL Ltd was the volume leader with 29,973 shares changing hands for a value of $895,355.67, followed by FirstCaribbean International Bank Ltd with a volume of 18,006 shares being traded for $153,477.60.

JMMB Group Ltd contributed 6,720 shares with a value of $11,441.20, while Calypso Macro Index Fund added 3,000 shares valued at $47,400.

FirstCaribbean International Bank Ltd registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.03 to end the day at $8.52. Conversely, First Citizens Bank Ltd registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.90 to close at $34.01.

On the mutual fund market 3,125 shares changed hands for a value of $49,898.75.

Calypso Macro Index Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 3,000 shares valued at $47,400. Calypso Macro Index Fund remained at $15.80.

Clico Investment Fund declined by $0.01 to end at $19.99.

Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd SCC—Development Fund remained at $0.67.

Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd SCC—Value Fund remained at $1.70. Praetorian Property Mutual Fund remained at $3.05. The second tier market did not witness any activity. Mora Ven Holdings Ltd remained at $14.49.

• The Composite Index declined by 2.44 points (0.20%) to close at 1,241.21.

• The All T&T Index declined by 5.63 points (0.33%) to close at 1,708.29.

• The Cross Listed Index advanced by 0.11 points (0.11%) to close at 104.15.

Categories: News

No fallout for Caribbean in new US trade deal, says expert

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 06:33

The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should not have any major impact on T&T and the Caribbean said Dr Anthony Gonsalves, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of International Relations, University of the West Indies (UWI).

“It is essentially a free trade agreement between those three countries, United States, Canada and Mexico. They are just negotiating certain terms and conditions in certain sections of the agreement in the areas that the Americans think they have problems like the auto industry and the question of labour conditions. The Americans think that they are losing jobs because the labour conditions are not strict enough in Mexico,” he told Guardian Media by phone yesterday.

The White House is finalising details of a new free trade deal with Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement — with or without Canada.

Scrapping NAFTA was one of US President Donald Trump’s central promises during his presidential campaign. He blamed the 24-year-old trade pact for decimating the US manufacturing industry and the loss of thousands of factory jobs.

Gonsalves said the only area where T&T might be remotely affected is in the area of steel.

NuIron Ltd manufactures direct reduced metal in T&T for its parent company NuCor Inc headquartered in North Carolina, United States.

“Some of the American steel giants have been behind Trump on raising steel tariffs. NuCor still produces steel in T&T and is based in the United States. T&T has duty-free access to the US market I believe under the Caribbean Basin

Initiative (CBI) trade agreement with the United States. So far, Trump has not said anything about these non-reciprocal arrangements. I see that NuCor has put in a bid for a steel mill here. They were the ones who pushed Trump to raise the tariffs as they felt that their plants were in trouble in the United States. I am not sure that would be beneficial to T&T. The rise in the price in steel could make us a little more competitive in the steel market.”

He said that T&T has to be “vigilant” and observe what is taking place internationally especially with regard to American trade deals.

“Trump has not paid any attention to Latin America and the Caribbean. He has ignored us and maybe that is a good thing. The less said about us is probably the better because he is unpredictable. The CBI is not a legal agreement and Trump could wake up tomorrow and cancel the whole agreement or change the tariff on something. It is different with NAFTA as he has to go to Congress to change that,” he said.

Categories: News

Massy opens third supermarket in Arima

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 06:32

Despite facing one of the most difficult economic times the retail sector, Massy Stores remains confident in the future of the country’s economy, says Derek Winford, CEO, Massy Stores.

“This is one of the most difficult times in retail, as a matter of fact in the whole country, I have been in retail for over 25 years and I am telling you that the times that we are seeing today is the toughest times that we have seen. Even going back to the financial crisis in the United States, we are in really tough financial times,” he said.

Winford spoke yesterday at the opening of its 19th store in T&T in Mandalay, Tumpuna Road, Arima, near the Larry Gomes Stadium.

He called the newest store, which occupies 19,000 square feet, a “huge investment” but declined to give the figure of how much it cost to build and to outfit the store.

“We have confidence in the future of T&T. We have confidence in Arima. We have confidence in the economy. Here we are making such a huge investment when things are as bad as they could ever be.”

He also dismissed as “fake news” reports that Massy Stores had the highest prices in the supermarket industry.

“We have a Dollar Stretcher and on that, you will find the lowest prices possible. We have deals that you will not see any part of the world. It is called ‘extreme deals.’ When people tell you the competition is cheaper, it is fake news.

Massy Stores is about the first or second cheapest supermarket in T&T. That is the truth. Anything that anybody tells you about high prices, because of the state of the economy, because of the perception that we have, it is fake news.”

He added that they are bringing the best in service to this latest branch.

“It is the first time, that we have been able to bring all this, our latest formats to Arima. We have delivered in Trincity, we have delivered it in Marabella, we have delivered it in Gulf, we have delivered it in St Ann’s, we have delivered it in Glencoe but it is the first time we are bringing it to Arima. It is the third store in Arima. A beautiful ambience, wide aisles, cleanliness, quality, excellent customer service. When we put on a scale this is two kilogrammes or 5.5 pounds, that is exactly what the scale said. Our value deals with honesty and integrity.”

He also said that Massy Stores will continue its Corporate Social Responsibility projects like recycling.

“The plastic bag initiative that we have, a lot of our customers got upset with us for charging 50 cents for a bag. 50 cents is a penalty, I do not want anybody to pay 50 cents for a bag. So use the reusable bag and save the environment,” he said.

Categories: News

Scotiabank gains $0.02

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 23:51

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 14 securities of which two advanced, three declined and nine traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 44,499 shares crossing the floor of the exchange valued at $612,079.26.

JMMB Group Ltd was the volume leader with 28,516 shares changing hands for a value of $48,834.05, followed by T&T NGL Ltd with a volume of 3,031 shares being traded for $90,934.89.

Angostura Holdings Ltd contributed 2,386 shares with a value of $37,579.50, while Massy Holdings Ltd added 2,085 shares valued at $97,995.00.

Scotiabank T&T Ltd registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.02 to end the day at $65.02.

Conversely, The West Indian Tobacco Company Ltd registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.54 to close at $88.00.

On the mutual fund market 2,297 shares changed hands for a value of $44,846.41.

Clico Investment Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 2,037 shares valued at $40,738.15.

Clico Investment Fund remained at $20.00. Calypso Macro Index fund remained at $15.80.
Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd SCC - Development Fund remained at $0.67. Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd Ltd SCC - Value Fund remained at $1.70. Praetorian Property Mutual Fund remained

at $3.05.

The Second Tier Market did not witness any activity. Mora Ven Holdings Ltd remained at $14.49.

• The Composite Index declined by 1.62 points (0.13%) to close at 1,243.65.

• The All T&T Index declined by 0.89 points (0.05%) to close at 1,713.92.

• The Cross Listed Index declined by 0.33 points (0.32%) to close at 104.04.

Categories: News

New standards for poultry imports—Trade Minister

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 23:50

Local consumers will now be protected from “sub-standard” poultry products entering the local market because the Cabinet has agreed to the enforcement of the Caricom Regional Standard for Poultry Products said Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon.

“The standard requires English detailed labels, the names and addresses of the establishment and the processing plant, the country of origin and the dates slaughtered, the best before date. The standard also stipulates that for chilled poultry the best before date should not be more than five days from the date of slaughter,” she said.

Gopee-Scoon spoke yesterday on the recent Cabinet-approved enforcement of the Caricom Regional Standard for Poultry and Poultry Products in T&T, at the Ministry of Trade, Nicholas Towers, Port-of-Spain.

“The Cabinet has agreed to the enforcement of the Caricom Regional Standard for Poultry Products in T&T and this standard will be mandatory. The standard was developed under the authority of the Caricom Regional Organisation for standards and quality and shaped with consultations from stakeholders throughout Caricom members states including T&T. Locally stakeholders including the T&T Bureau of Standards, Caribbean Poultry Association and the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division of the Ministry of Health in the development of the standards over the period 2012 were engaged,” she said.

The standards indicate quality requirements and specifications for primary, processed poultry consisting of carcasses, poultry parts for human consumption and provides definitions of the standards for the market category of poultry and the requirements of sanitation, hygiene, grading, packaging, labelling and marketing.

She said chicken meat of “varying standards” has been entering T&T despite a Caricom standard for poultry products but that standard is voluntary.

She referred to concerns raised by Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat who said there was a need for national standards for poultry products on the backdrop of chicken of questionable quality coming into T&T.

She also said that this new standard will not affect prices at local pluck shops.

She said chicken meat is the most consumed meat in T&T and it is estimated that the average family consumes three to four times per week.

“Domestic consumption of chicken is estimated at 50,000 tonnes per year. The equivalent of that in terms of birds is 55 million chickens per year. 60 per cent of that is produced locally and the rest is imported.”

She added that the Ministry of Health will be responsible for enforcing standards and she hopes it is done by the end of the year.

She spoke about consequences if the requirements are not met.

“These items will just be not offered for sale, will not be on the shelves to the consumers.”

Desmond Ali, executive director, Caribbean Poultry Association, who also spoke at the media conference, said that there is no need for consumers to worry about hormones being injected into chickens.

“I need to put this hormone thing at rest. The fact is that the poultry industry around the world has not been using hormones. The last time they used hormones was in 1963,” he said.

Categories: News

67 benefit from $1m grant to start small businesses

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 23:48

The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services yesterday distributed $1 million in grants to 67 recipients of the Sowing Empowerment through Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) programme.

Each recipient received a grant of $15,000 by Minister of Social Development and Family Services Minister Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn at a distribution ceremony at Government Plaza, Port-of Spain.

One recipient, Ursula Mark-Kelly promised to put the grant to good use, as she plans to open a mini-mart next month at her home in Sherwood Park, Arima.

In addition to selling dry goods and a variety of frozen meats, Mark-Kelly, 45, said she will offer pastries and cakes to her customers. “This business will help supplement my family’s income. My husband is a labourer and jobs have not been coming in on a regular basis due to the downturn in the economy,” Mark-Kelly said.

For several weeks, Mark-Kelly was exposed to training at the University of T&T in business management which was facilitated by the Central Bank of T&T.

“This training guided me on how to run my business efficiently and effectively and attract customers. I certainly learnt a lot. I am forever thankful to the ministry for helping me to open my own business which has been a long-life dream of mine,” the mother of three said.

Of the 67 recipients, the majority ventured into agriculture, while other chose garment construction, catering, cosmetology and establishing mini-marts.

In delivering remarks, Patricia De Leon-Henry, director of the ministry’s National Social Development Programme told the recipients that this programme was one of the key drivers of the ministry’s thrust to strengthen its national social safety net.

She said the programme encourages individuals, families and communities to become more resilient while the grants will provide assistance to clients interested in starting a business or improving their skills set.

“The primary objective is to empower and to transform the lives of all successful applicants particularly those in receipt of welfare grants but desirous of starting a micro-enterprise.”

De Leon-Henry said the ministry envisaged a new pool of business owners who will assist in reducing levels of dependency on the State and add to the country’s overall competitiveness and innovation.

The recipients were trained in financial management, record keeping, costing and pricing, marketing, customer service and development of responsible behavioural and attitudinal skills.

In extending best wishes, Crichlow-Cockburn told the recipients that the ministry was prepared to provide support throughout their entrepreneurial journey while monitoring their businesses.

“What we try to do is work with our clients. The intention is for them to become self-sufficient. That is the basic idea behind the grants,” the minister said.

Last year, the ministry distributed grants to 20 clients many of whom still operate as entrepreneurs today. The recipients, Crichlow-Cockburn said do not have to repay the grants.

Categories: News

150,000 shares of GraceKennedy changed hands

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 23:49

Overall market activity resulted from trading in nine securities of which one advanced, three declined and five traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 274,181 shares crossing the floor of the exchange valued at $3,206,272.67.

GraceKennedy Ltd was the volume leader with 150,000 shares changing hands for a value of $422,060, followed by Guardian Holdings Ltd with a volume of 65,993 shares being traded for $1,121,154.79.

T&T NGL Ltd contributed 38,368 shares with a value of $1,151,123.56, while First Citizens Bank Ltd added 13,062 shares valued at $455,994.42.

Guardian Holdings Ltd enjoyed the day’s sole price increase, climbing $0.39 to end the day at $16.99.

Conversely, Grace Kennedy Ltd registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.10 to close at $2.81.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the mutual fund market, posting a volume of 5,000 shares valued at $100,000. Clico Investment Fund remained at $20.00.

Calypso Macro Index fund remained at $15.80.

Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd SCC - Development Fund remained at $0.67.

Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd SCC - Value fund remained at $1.70.

Praetorian Property Mutual Fund remained at $3.05.

The Second Tier Market did not witness any activity.

Mora Ven Holdings Ltd remained at $14.49.

• The Composite Index declined by 0.15 points (0.01%) to close at 1,245.27.

• The All T&T Index advanced by 1.71 points (0.10%) to close at 1,714.81.

• The Cross Listed Index declined by 0.28 points (0.27%) to close at 104.37.

Categories: News

Poultry producers welcome new regional standards

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 23:48

The enforcement of Caricom regional standards for poultry products will have a major impact on local chicken consumers, says Desmond Ali, Executive Director, Caribbean Poultry Association.

The major benefit being that consumers will not be exposed to expired chicken products and this would prevent a possible public health hazard.

“The whole idea of the standard is to protect the consumer and ensure that the consumer gets an excellent product,” he said.

Ali said 90 per cent of local products are sold within 10 days of final production.

“We are now saying that all poultry must be sold within 180 days of the date of slaughter. The standard will ensure that consumers get a quality product,” he told Guardian Media by phone yesterday.

Ali spoke ahead of Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon’s announcement today on the Cabinet-approved enforcement of the Caricom Regional Standard for Poultry and Poultry Products in T&T.

He said that there is one standard but outlined the new requirements.

The label of the product must carry a date of slaughter, the expiry date cannot be more than 180 days after the date of slaughter, the product if it has been stored and frozen cannot be sold as a fresh product and the product that is on sale must be in the same package that was sent from the processing plant.

Contacted for comment, Robin Phillips, President of the Poultry Association of T&T, said that consumers will benefit from the move.

“We are satisfied that it was approved at the level of the Cabinet and we look forward to its full implementation in the shortest period of time, effectively becoming law in T&T. It is really laws that are there for the consumers as it puts things like the expiry date on the product. We label all the products that we produce,” he told the Guardian Media by phone yesterday.

He also said that the Association has always advocated for the consumer to be aware of the age of the chicken being consumed and where it was produced.

“We know with the implementation of the standards that consumers will be far more educated in terms of that information. It will also facilitate us exporting to the wider Caribbean.”

According to statement from the Ministry of Trade yesterday: “The standards (for poultry) were developed under the authority of the Caricom Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and was the result of consultation with stakeholders throughout Caricom Member States, including T&T. The implementation of the standards can also positively impact the growth of the domestic and regional poultry industry through the acceptance of the common and harmonised grading regime as well as increased intra-regional trade.”

Minister of Agriculture, Clarence Rambharat had previously said that local businesses which sell healthy and fresh products have for too long had to compete with foreign chicken that is older than six months old.

He said that new legal requirements would prevent this from happening again.

Phillips had also previously said the local industry will be decimated if it is not protected from a ramped-up campaign by the USA Poultry and Egg Council to send millions of tonnes of chicken, turkey and duck, and billions of eggs into the Caricom market.

Categories: News

Collective respect key going ahead

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 00:02

When officials of state-owned Petrotrin and the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union sit down for talks tomorrow, economist Dr Roger Hosein says a “collective respect” is required by all the players around the table “recognising that it is not business as usual in Trinidad and Tobago, but rather business unusual has to be the operating principle moving forward and therefore a different and unusual level of cooperation and pulling in the same direction is required.”

Speaking to the T&T Guardian yesterday, even as the OWTU led its membership in a protest at the residence of the Prime Minister, Hosein said the current situation requires “careful judgement by all the players involved.”

The reality of Petrotrin today, he said, is one where, he said, “I am not of the view that change could be obtained without some form of creative destruction.”

While the union has a mandate to represent and ensure that workers’ jobs are protected, the company has a mandate to operate profitably and the state would want to see an efficiently operating state-owned enterprise, Hosein said.

“Some of these interests are conflicting and therefore the solution would have to be somewhere in the middle,” Hosein said.

But he cautioned that “no entity should rush and lay off 10,15, 20 per cent of the labour force, because the hardship experienced by these individuals will be real.”

He said he would support a “public-private arrangement in moving forward that preserves as much employment as possible, but that allows the company wiggling room for profitability.”

While he concedes that Petrotrin has been “badly run,” Hosein said the union must also take its head out of the 1930s, 40s and 50s and “change its behavioural pattern and some of its perceptions of the role it has to play in moving the company forward.”

He deemed it “absurd” that although production levels at the state oil company had fallen by as much as 50 per cent in the last ten years, salary levels have not fallen in some way related to the fall in production.

“It simply cannot be business as usual in Petrotrin,” he said.

Hosein said 2018 salary levels at Petrotrin “reflect production levels of 2000 and 2005 and therefore there is negotiating room for all to come out with some measure of success as it stands.”

“If I were leader of the OWTU,” he said, “I would have negotiated for a ten per cent cut in salary and kept all my workers. I would have tried to go for a strategy to keep my staff on the assumption that if I have eighty or ninety per cent of a loaf of bread I would still be able to feed my family, rather than try to get one and a half loaves of bread but some of the people in my family would probably remain hungry because they became unemployed.”

Petrotrin officials declined comment ahead of tomorrow’s talks yesterday, saying things are at a “sensitive stage.”

The T&T Guardian was told that the company remains optimistic that the union will understand the dire situation which the company has found itself in, where it needs to find the money to repay millions of dollars in loans which become due next year.

One official said, “The rating agencies are waiting to find out how the loans are going to be refinanced or else they are going to downgrade Trinidad and Tobago.”
In a January 2017 address to the nation, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley described Petrotrin as “a ward of the Treasury” as he told the country the state oil company has a $13.2 billion debt, including $1.2 billion owed to the Government.

Categories: News

113,000 Witco shares traded

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 23:09

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 14 securities of which three advanced, four declined and seven traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 165,248 shares crossing the floor of the exchange valued at $11,682,878.79. The West Indian Tobacco Company Ltd was the volume leader with 113,000 shares changing hands for a value of $10,005,020, followed by Massy Holdings Ltd with a volume of 29,007 shares being traded for $1,363,329.

Guardian Holdings Ltd contributed 8,803 shares with a value of $146,129.80, while LJ Williams Ltd B added 3,680 shares valued at $2,760.

Massy Holdings Ltd registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.05 to end the day at $47. Conversely, JMMB Group Ltd registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.02 to close at $1.78.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 4,020 shares valued at $80,400.

Clico Investment Fund remained at $20. Calypso Macro Index Fund remained at $15.80.

Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd SCC—Development Fund remained at $0.67. Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd SCC—Value Fund remained at $1.70. Praetorian Property Mutual Fund remained at $3.05.

The Second Tier Market did not witness any activity.

Mora Ven Holdings Ltd remained at $14.49.

• The Composite Index declined by 0.23 points (0.02 per cent) to close at 1,245.42.

• The All T&T Index advanced by 0.01 points (0.00 per cent) to close at 1,713.10.

• The Cross Listed Index declined by 0.06 points (0.06 per cent) to close at 104.65.

Categories: News

Energy expert: Some benefits from gas deal

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 23:08

The opportunity to bring natural gas from Venezuela brings with it “potential benefits” to T&T, says energy consultant Tony Paul.

“This would be providing gas for plants that are currently under-supplied, plants that are paid off already and are potentially very profitable. It also brings competition to the suppliers BP and Shell. Therefore, it keeps the economy going and brings revenue to the country. It keeps people employed,” he told the Guardian Media.

Today, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will visit Caracas, Venezuela for the signing of the terms of the development of a deal to obtain gas from the Venezuelan Dragon Gas Field through an arrangement between National Gas Company (NGC), PDVSA and Shell.

T&T and Venezuela have been locked in discussions to develop gas in the Loran/Manatee fields that straddle the countries’ maritime borders for over a year.

The Loran/Manatee field has an estimated 10.25 trillion cubic feet of gas of which roughly 74 per cent belongs to Venezuela with 26 per cent belonging to T&T.

Shell is a multinational, oil and gas company and Paul is questioning Shell’s role in the deal.

“My concern is what, if any, role Shell will have. It started off being a Government-to-Government agreement, the Government of Venezuela bringing gas to T&T and suddenly Shell got involved. I do not see the need for Shell in the deal. This is not something that the NGC cannot do, it is to build a pipeline and bring gas to shore.”

He cited statistics from Poten & Partners, a New York City-headquartered company that provides consulting and project development services related to the energy and transportation sectors for the Ministry of Energy.

“The Government is on record as saying that Shell and BG have for years been short-changing us. Look at the Government’s Spotlight on Energy Conference that was held earlier this year, Poten & Partners highlighted sections of that report, where they indicated that Shell and BP together avoided taxes to the order of US$6.5 billion per year for four years, 2010 to 2014.

“Since then, it has been in the order of US$ 1 billion a year in avoiding taxes. Why would you want to give Shell any more money?”

He questioned the “secrecy” in which the deal with Venezuela is being signed. RJL

Categories: News

CAL launches inflight snacks and beverages

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 23:07

Caribbean Airlines yesterday launched Caribbean Café, an inflight snack and beverage catalogue featuring only locally made products from Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica as well as premium blends produced in Guyana, according to a statement from the company.

From September 1, customers travelling on intra-Caribbean and international flights operated by the airline’s Boeing 737 fleet will have the option to purchase an array of sweet and savoury snacks, along with beverages ranging from non-alcoholic to premium alcoholic options.

Caribbean Café complements the airline’s free in-flight meals and offers customers a “taste of home” as some of the snack offerings feature delicacies such as tamarind balls, fudge, preserved mango and spice bun.

At the launch of Caribbean Café held at the Trinidad & Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) head office in Barataria, TTMA CEO, Dr Ramesh Ramdeen commented, “Such an initiative is a welcomed one where locally produced, high quality snacks and beverages can be made available to all persons utilising the services of Caribbean Airlines.”

Chief Executive Officer Garvin Medera states: “Caribbean Airlines is rapidly innovating in services and technology to improve the customer experience. Customers can now purchase any of our local snacks and beverages from the Caribbean Café catalogue mid-flight, with the use of cash and credit cards,” the release said.

Categories: News

Manufacturers unpaid for Venezuelan exports —TTMA

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 23:05

Some local businesses have not yet been paid for goods delivered to Venezuela, said Christopher Alcazar, President, Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA).

However, he added the TTMA remains “optimistic” about the energy relations between the two countries.

“The TTMA has been watching these developments optimistically for our energy sector and country’s well being while with great concern as a few manufacturers who commenced trading with Venezuela are to date still left without Venezuela completing their financial contractual obligations causing great disruptions and losses to local business,” he said in a statement to Guardian Media yesterday.

Today, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will lead a team to Caracas, Venezuela where an energy agreement will be signed.

Alcazar continued by saying that Corporación Venezolana de Comercia Exterior (CORPOVEX) is the Venezuelan trade agency responsible for making the payments but they have not lived up to their end of the agreement.

However, he did not give the details of how much money is still owed to local businesses.

“In simple terms, goods have been delivered and produced and not paid for by CORPOVEX. These manufacturers have been trying to have monies due to them for over a year now to which correspondences continue to go unanswered. These matters have been raised on several occasions with Government of T&T but without recourse. Until these obligations are met, settled and contracts honoured, manufacturers would remain very sceptical of any further agreement with any industry between the countries,” he said.

In 2016, Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon officially released details of the trade agreement at the Execution of Bilateral Commercial Agreements between T&T local manufacturers and CORPOVEX.

Gopee-Scoon had announced that 12 products from T&T that would have been exported over a three-month period to Venezuela. In total, Venezuela was expected to receive 600 tonnes of food which included ketchup, mayonnaise, flour, white rice, margarine, chicken, powdered milk and spaghetti.

In October 2017, Gopee-Scoon speaking in a post-Budget debate in the Senate said T&T has exported $100 million worth of goods to Venezuela since 2016’s T&T-Venezuelan agreement.

“A consultant was hired by the T&T Manufacturers Association to facilitate further economic relations which has resulted in six companies successfully registering their products in Venezuela. The Ministry is making further interventions towards doing more business,” she said.

Venezuela is currently in the middle of a four-year recession coupled with hyperinflation which has led to a shortage of some basic products in that country.

Categories: News

Republic Financial up by $0.49

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 23:45

Overall market activity resulted from trading in eight securities of which four advanced, two declined and two traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 53,296 shares crossing the floor of the exchange valued at $1,231,791.15. Sagicor Financial Corporation Ltd was the volume leader with 23,176 shares changing hands for a value of $179,614.00, followed by Massy Holdings Ltd with a volume of 14,099 shares being traded for $661,948.05.

JMMB Group Ltd contributed 10,000 shares with a value of $18,000.00, while Republic Financial Holdings Ltd added 3,446 shares valued at $356,661.00.

Republic Financial Holdings Ltd registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.49 to end the day at $103.50.

Conversely, Sagicor Financial Corporation Ltd registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.05 to close at $7.75.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the mutual fund narket, posting a volume of 2,000 shares valued at $40,000. Clico Investment Fund remained at $20.

Calypso Macro Index Fund remained at $15.80.

Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd SCC—Development fund remained at $0.67. Fortress Caribbean Property Fund Ltd SCC —Value Fund remained at $1.70. Praetorian Property Mutual Fund remained at $3.05.

The Second Tier Market did not witness any activity. Mora Ven Holdings Ltd remained at $14.49

• The All T&T Index advanced by 1.80 points (0.11%) to close at 1,713.09.
• The Cross Listed Index advanced by 0.30 points (0.29%) to close at 104.71.

Categories: News

JMMB Group records 56 per cent growth

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 23:43

JMMB Group, has recorded a 56 per cent growth in its net profit, year-over-year, totalling Jamaican $956.6 million, for the three-month period ending June 30.

Additionally, the group posted a net operating revenue of Jamaican $4.7 billion, which reflects an increase of 15 per cent, compared to the corresponding prior period.

The Jamaican head-quartered financial group has operations in T&T.

According to a statement from the company, the group’s performance was largely driven by growth in its core business operations, namely: foreign exchange trading gains, fees and commission income; net interest income, and net gains on securities trading.

“Foreign exchange trading gains saw a significant increase of Jamaican $277.1 million, or 117 per cent, amounting to Jamaican $514.6 million, as a result of increased trading activity and the faster pace of depreciation of the Jamaican dollar, over the period. Fees and commission income totalled Jamaican $481.6 million, an increase of 32 per cent, over the corresponding prior period, driven by significant growth in managed funds and collective investment schemes, across the group.”

The statement also said that net interest income for the reporting period stood at approximately Jamaican $2.1 billion, reflecting a growth of eight per cent, or Jamaican $155.9 million, in the group’s loan and investment portfolios.

Additionally, net gains on securities traded, showed a marginal increase of four per cent, compared to the prior period, totalling Jamaican $1.6 billion, due to a decline in trading activities caused from the frequency of US Federal rate increases.

Keith Duncan, JMMB Group CEO, noted that the positive performance achieved by the company reflects its commitment to build-out of its integrated regional financial strategy, even as the entity has intensified the consolidation and growth phases of its business model.

JMMB Group has rolled out several initiatives across its regional subsidiaries, specifically: expanding online services in the Dominican Republic; improving the online banking platform—JMMB Moneyline, with added features, in Jamaica and the standardisation of client experience across the group, with the implementation of sales training tools and other initiatives.

Categories: News

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