The Bahamas Weekly writes that the Bahamian Government and Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) have completed the controversial ‘2% deal’, whereby CWC has transferred ownership of just under 2% of the shares in Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to a charitable trust set up by the government of Bahamas – the BTC Foundation. As part of his election campaign in 2012, PM Perry Christie pledged to return BTC to Bahamian ownership, after the previous administration sold a 51% stake in the fixed line incumbent and sole provider of wireless services in the archipelago to the UK’s CWC for USD210 million. To that end, the government has been involved in negotiations with CWC to reclaim majority ownership of the provider and in January 2014, the PM announced that an agreement had been reached. Under the now-completed deal, CWC transferred 5,093,200 shares in BTC to the new foundation, which will invest in Bahamian interests. The nearly-2% stake is not entitled to any voting rights, leaving CWC with majority voting rights as the largest overall shareholder and allowing CWC to consolidate BTC’s financial results. Further, CWC will also retain management and board control.
The deal has been roundly criticised for wasting money on a ‘face-saving’ measure for the Christie administration, the end result changing little for CWC or BTC, but allowing the government to claim that it has met its election promises. Speculation that the government would consider extending BTC’s monopoly on wireless services in exchange for the 2% proved ungrounded, although the government has remained tight-lipped on the amount paid to CWC for the shares. Further, prolonged delays and the absence of any mention of the deal from CWC’s financial report led to accusations that the PM had lied about the agreement.