Wednesday 15 July, 2020

FTC tight-lipped on BNTCL sale delay

The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) has issued no public updates on the status of the proposed sale of the Barbados National Terminal Co. Ltd. (BNTCL) to SOL or the reasons for the extended delay of a final decision.

From the first quarter of the 2017 financial year, Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler announced that the $100 Million-dollar sale of the oil terminal will significantly bolster the level of foreign reserves which had been on the decline from late 2016. Now on the eve of the fourth financial quarter, it appears according to economists in some spheres that the Minister may have counted 'the chickens before they hatched' considering the sale is still caught up in the bureaucratic process.

The Preliminary Findings Report issued to the applicants back in June and leaked to the media stated the proposed sale would not be allowed as SOL could possibly “restrict or refuse access to current and potential marketers at the terminal, or offer access only on discriminatory terms."

A statement issued by the FTC on July 3, stated no final decision had been made on the SOL/BNTCL merger application and applicants were required to submit additional information for review.

Director of Fair Competition, Antonio Thompson assured Loop News during an interview that the FTC was not simply twiddling their thumbs on the investigations into the merger, saying,  

“It’s not like there isn’t anything happening in the background, it is just we can’t say about the investigation as it is ongoing.”

According to the FTC Fair Competition Act, a decision to grant or refuse permission on a merger and issue notice to the applicants is to be made “within 3 months after the receipt of an application”. That three-month deadline expires at the end of this week. 

Thompson explained there has been delays in a decision as a result of some “back and forth” between the FTC and the applicants which would have caused the review of the sale to be extended and put them outside of the three months' window. However, he noted there was a clause within the legislation which states if the FTC is unable to make the decision in the allotted time it should be made “as soon as practicable”.

Thompson reassured the FTC was not intentionally dragging its feet in the mud noting “in other parts of the world, merger reviews can go on for 18 months”.

In response to if the FTC would be more in favour of the sale if it were a split between SOL and their main competitor, Rubis, Thompson said the applicants would then need to submit a new application which would also need to undergo review.

Back in March, Rubis had filed an application for Judicial Review in the High Court of a decision to approve the inclusion of a 15-year moratorium clause in the Sale and Purchase Agreement between a Sol Subsidiary and the Barbados National Oil Company Limited (BNOCL).

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