The shareholders of Curacao-based United Telecommunication Services (UTS) have agreed to hold talks with Sint Maarten’s incumbent PTO TelEm Group about the two companies partnering and merging, the Daily Herald reports. Sint Maarten prime minister William Marlin – who this month confirmed that he had applied the brakes on a planned sale of the TelEm Group – said the intention is to create one solid and strong company for the former Netherlands Antilles nations. Marlin said once the process is complete, TelEm will have majority 60% stake in the enlarged entity with UTS holding the remaining 40%.
UTS CEO Paul de Geus recently claimed that ‘without a strategic partner [UTS] will be dead’, and PM Marlin noted that, if finalised, the two parties will see if it is still necessary to ‘bring in bigger partner from outside’ or whether TelEm and UTS would be able to survive unsupported. Pan-Caribbean telecoms groups Digicel and Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC, now part of Liberty Global) have both registered strong interest in UTS and TelEm in recent years, although no deals have ever come to fruition.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the TelEm Group is currently wholly owned by the Sint Maarten government, while UTS is co-owned by the governments of Curacao (87.5%) and Sint Maarten (12.5%). Outside of its domestic market, UTS also has a presence in Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Saint Martin & Saint Barthelemy, Sint Eustatius, Saba and Saint Kitts & Nevis.