To say that state-owned Petrotrin finds itself in an interesting predicament is a bit of an understatement.
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TSTT cautious on CWC takeover plan
TSTT CEO George Hill said the interest being shown in the local telecommunications company by Cable & Wireless (CWC) could undermine investment proposals which have already attracted interest from potential financiers.
“While it is not the practice for TSTT’s management to discuss ownership structure, the company has noted the comments from the Chief Executive Officer of minority shareholder, Cable & Wireless Phil Bentley as to how CWC would chart a course for TSTT’s future, defend its market against international competitors, invest in infrastructure and support government rural ICT centres,” Hill said in a statement yesterday.
He said CWC’s plan is similar to initiatives TSTT already has in place and new ones that are part of the company’s five year strategic plan presented to its board of directors, comprising representatives for CWC and National Enterprises Limited (NEL), in August 2013. Hill’s statement comes just days after Bentley met with Finance Minister Larry Howai to discuss obtaining a controlling stake in state-owned TSTT.
He said the company had presented its strategic plan to potential financiers to source independent funding so as not to put any demands on shareholders. “Positive reviews of our proposal by potential financiers would have been based on confidence in the strategic plan, confidence in management’s ability to execute on said plan, good corporate governance and a track record of proven results,” he said.
Hill pointed out that since the formation of TSTT in 1991, the company has remained profitable with the exception of one year when there was a significant change out of its mobile network. He said the initial shareholder investment of $537 million has grown to the point where shareholder equity stood at $3.2 billion as of December 2013.
He added: “Moreover, within the last five years, without seeking additional shareholder investment or external debt financing, the company has aggressively invested almost $4 billion in capital expenditure in the upgrade and expansion of its network infrastructure from internally generated profits. On this journey over the life of the company, TSTT has paid dividends to shareholders of $2.6 billion without further equity injections since their initial investment.”
Hill said his vision for TSTT “is a clear roadmap focused on growth, return on invested capital and most importantly, realignment of the company to better serve customers”. He said steps have already been taken to develop TSTT into a fully customer-oriented, lucrative, modern company.
He explained that the strategic plan is for full alignment of business strategy to the company’s business infrastructure; targeted growth in mobile and broadband; specific improvements in operational efficiencies through deployment of more sophisticated, IP-centric automated solutions; and ‘first-to-market’ deployment of new, innovative technology to the citizens of T&T.
Parts of the plan already implemented include the launch in January of T&T’s first ever Gigabit Community where residents receive Internet access speeds of up to one gigabit per second, as well as the inauguration in March of a rural information communication centre in Cumana.
“Another first was achieved, when on April 15, the company simultaneously introduced piloted new Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless broadband projects in two rural communities in East Trinidad and Tobago. This LTE technology will play a key role is making broadband accessible in many other rural areas that are presently not served by any service provider,” Hill said.
“Multiple other projects are also underway in Tobago for increasing the deployment of fibre optic based access, to enable more customers to enjoy the advantages of broadband internet.” Hill said TSTT owns and operates the country’s largest fibre optic network, stretching more than 5,000 kilometres across the country and there are plans to expand coverage to another 45,000 homes over the next three years. It is the only full-service communications provider in T&T.