The executive chairman of state-owned Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), Nestor Vasquez, told local newspaper Amandala yesterday that pan-Caribbean cellular group Digicel has expressed ‘serious interest’ in purchasing a stake in BTL, which is currently finalising the prospectus for a share sale expected to be published next month. Vasquez disclosed that Digicel visited the company last week and that the two parties are talking under a non-disclosure agreement. However, the chairman said the Irish-owned, Jamaica-based group has been told clearly that a controlling interest is not up for grabs. Although a Mexican investor has also expressed interest to the government of Belize, Vasquez said that BTL will not be engaging in negotiations with any other group until the talks with Digicel reach a conclusion one way or another. Another would-be minority share purchaser buyer is the Belize Communications Workers Union (BCWU), which previously announced its intention to acquire a 23% share of the company, a move which Vasquez indicated he would support. Currently, the union holds around 1.5%-2% of BTL shares, according to Amandala’s report. The Belize Social Security Board (BSSB) is also looking at re-acquiring shares in BTL, which were sold off in 2004 to private owners, and subsequently taken over by the government in the 2009 re-nationalisation. According to the chairman, BTL’s board has not yet decided if the planned limitation on non-government shareholdings would remain at 25%; however, its plan is to fix a minimum of 45% of profits to be paid out in dividends every year. It could be 2011 before the sale of shares is closed, he indicated.
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