World VoIP NewsLong-running BTC privatisation delayed againLong-running BTC privatisation delayed again

Long-running BTC privatisation delayed again

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Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has said his government is in no rush to sell a 51% stake in Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), and would rather take its time finding a buyer and ensuring that the process goes right.
‘It takes a while for some things to be done, especially if you want it done properly. We do not have to sell today or tomorrow. We would like to do so when it is beneficial for The Bahamas and whenever that comes we will be happy,’ he told reporters.

According to GlobalComms Database the process of priming BTC for privatisation was initiated in 1998 when the company's workforce was cut by 50% and consultants were engaged to advise on the sale of part of the government's stake. Progress was slow, but in early 2003 the government announced that it would sell a 49% stake to a 'strategic partner'. Three parties expressed interest in the sale - TransWorld Telecom, BahamaTel and Bluewater Ventures - but by May all but the last, a private equity firm backed by John Gregg, a former top executive of British cableco NTL, had pulled out. With just one interested party in the frame the government engaged in some prolonged heavy bargaining, but no deal was forged, leaving the government with no option but to put the entire process on hold.

The issue was not dropped altogether however, and in November 2005 the then-prime minister Perry Christie was reported as saying he remained 100% committed to the telco's privatisation, though he stopped short of giving any intended dates. In January 2006 the Minister of State for Finance was quoted as saying that government officials were 'in discussions' with an interested party. Although nothing official was made public, it was rumoured that the Christie government had given the nod to a BHD260 million (USD260 million) deal with Bluewater for the 49% stake, of which BHD220 million would be paid up front, BHD35 million would be paid in five years time, with a final BHD5 million due a year later. However, it soon became clear that Bluewater was only prepared to pay BHD260 million if BTC was guaranteed an extension of its wireless monopoly for a period of between five and seven years (with MVNOs permitted to enter the market after three years), and if it was given a commitment that the company would be permitted to offer pay-TV services once Cable Bahamas' exclusivity ended in 2009.

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