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Government weighing local implications of Columbus International Inc, CWC deal

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The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is weighing the local implications of the purchase of Columbus International Inc by British based company, Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC).

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves met with the new chief executive officer of Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) Phil Bentley to discuss the possible merger of CWC with Columbus International in St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

“They have basically outlined what their situation is. They are making the point that they have provided us with a significant amount of data. They are saying that there are six countries with overlapping markets between Columbus and themselves; that is to say Cable and Wireless fixed and mobile overlap Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves explained, during a press conference.

The Prime Minister revealed that the CWC officials attempted to show that they were not dominant in the market. However, Gonsalves indicated that he has advised the Minister of Telecommunications to seek a meeting with ministers from the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) to discuss the matter.

“We, in St Vincent and the Grenadines, we have been studying the question. I have here a six-page brief by the professionals, which came from the Ministry of Telecommunications and I have had discussions with the minister in depth and with NTRC (National Telecommunications and Regulatory Commission). I spoke to the director general of the OECS. There are certain legal issues which we ourselves are studying here and we will provide an appropriate answer to Cable and Wireless,” he said.

The Prime Minister noted that the country has to be mindful of the small size of Columbus International operating in St Vincent and the Grenadines, particularly in regard of the estimated revenues.

Also, he noted that he was keeping his “eyes on the big picture” with regard to the possible benefits for consumers.

“We are giving a full hearing to Cable and Wireless. We are giving a full hearing to Digicel and their objections and we will make our determination within the context of the legislation established in the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority,” he said.

“What is in it for the economy and what is in it for people of St Vincent and the Grenadines and of the OECS to own shares? What are those opportunities? The days are gone when new circumstances arise when we just allow the big players to resolve the things by themselves, and we not looking for opportunities for our ownselves.”

On November 6, CWC, parent company of LIME, agreed to buy Barbados-based company Columbus International, operators of Flow, for US$1.85 billion.

According to Gonsalves, Bentley revealed that CWC is seeking approval for a change of control for Columbus’ licenses and expects approval of shareholders by December 5.(BK)

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