There is a proliferation of Chinese businesses in communities across the country, including a strong presence in the country’s capital, Port-of-Spain.
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FirstCaribbean recovers from loss in 2014
Chairman of FirstCaribbean International Bank Limited David Ritch says 2015 was a year of recovery for the bank which achieved net income of US$98 million. He said this was “a significant improvement” over fiscal 2014 when the bank suffered net loss of US$148 million.
In the bank’s annual report which has been posted to the T&T Stock Exchange, Ritch said FirstCaribbean’s restructuring programme, which was announced in October 2013 will end in the current fiscal year. He said the bank is starting to see the result of corrective measures put in place over the past two years, with continued emphasis on corporate governance, customer engagement, cost containment and sales and service excellence. He said: “The bank conducted a strategic assessment of our operations region-wide and concluded that some levels of adjustments were required in the way we currently conduct our business to ensure that FirstCaribbean maintains and builds on its strengths and opportunities in key markets.
“In some territories this resulted in the closure of branches and in others, the consolidation of branches to make our operations more efficient and position us to drive profitable growth. The announcement of our exit from the Belize market followed this review, with an almost simultaneous announcement of the opening of a representative office in Aruba, and plans for full branch facilities in fiscal 2016.”
Ritch said the bank’s improved performance took place against a back drop of a slow and uneven economic in the Caribbean. “While the pace of growth in stay-over tourist arrivals generally slowed during the first half of the year, latest data suggests that more tourists visited the Caribbean in 2015 compared to 2014. In some of the jurisdictions in which we have a presence stay-over numbers for recent years have been encouraging,” he said.
“Unemployment, while generally lower, remains elevated, and domestic demand sluggish, as weak mortgage growth and cuts to capital expenditure in some markets limit expansion in construction activity. The banking sector lending continues to lag the economic recovery and remains virtually flat, but bank loan quality continues to improve and capital buffers remain adequate relative to regulatory requirements.”
He said with the exception of T&T where credit demand remains strongest, central banks across the region have maintained or increased accommodative monetary policy stances to encourage greater lending and reduce the level and cost of high excess liquidity.
Commenting on the recent departure of Rik Parkhill, who stepped down as FirstCaribbean CEO in December, Ritch praised him for his ‘ dedication to the quality of leadership that was needed to return this bank to financial health through a combination of measures that were at times difficult for us all have borne fruit as evidenced by our results this fiscal.” He announced that Sir Fred Gollop QC, one of the bank’s longest serving board members, has decided not to stand for election as director this year and Parkhill has agreed to stand for election at the bank’s annual meeting in March to fill the vacancy resulting from Sir Fred’s retirement.