Despite being rejected by the Government for a second time, Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd is seeking a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to show it has the financial backing to acquire the former assets of Petrotrin.
Patriotic’s parent organisation, the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) said yesterday it had engaged Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse to financially back its efforts to acquire the Guaracara Refining Company and the Paria Fuel Trading Company.
In a media conference at the OWTU’s Paramount Building headquarters in San Fernando yesterday, president general Ancel Roget appealed to Rowley to bring justice to the failed negotiation between Patriotic and a Cabinet-appointed evaluation committee.
On Monday, Cabinet rejected Patriotic’s bid and opted to accept new offers for an operator for the tank farm, port and mothballed refinery.
But yesterday, Roget said Patriotic remains committed to restarting the refinery and is hoping the Government will give it another chance on securing the deal.
“We call on the honourable Prime Minister, we call on you as perhaps the only person, in your capacity as leader of the Government of Trinidad & Tobago, to meet with us, to have your team meet with us and to examine the veracity of our claim, but more importantly, the commitment of Credit Suisse to close this,” Roget said.
Responding to issues raised during a joint media conference by Minister of Finance Colm Imbert and Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Franklin Khan, Roget said Imbert made it seem as though Patriotic does not have the money to complete the acquisition. However, he said the main issue remained the lien attached to Trinidad Holding Company Ltd (TPHL), which is the parent company of Guaracara and Paria.
When Patriotic first bid for the assets in 2019, it offered an upfront payment of US$700 million. However, the Government countered, offering Patriotic a 10-year payment plan with a three-year moratorium. The Government also attached 10 conditions, which Patriotic yesterday said it satisfied. As a result, Roget said Patriotic no longer required the financial backing of some of its international partners.
Last year, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar raised the issue of the lien. But in a subsequent media conference, Imbert said the lien was not an issue and that the Ministry of Finance would remove it to complete the deal. However, Roget said the Government did not do this, resulting in Patriotic offering an upfront payment of US$500 million due to the net-present value of the assets.
Despite Cabinet appointing an evaluation committee last November to assess Patriotic’s new bid, there was no change.
Yesterday, Roget said it was only late last year that they approached Royal Bank for financing and all the bank needed was a guarantee to sell from the Government, but this was not forthcoming. Patriotic later met with Credit Suisse, as it has financed Petrotrin and TPHL in the past.
“All the Government has to do is to make good on its commitment to remove the lien. If you cannot remove the lien to make good on your offer, tell the country that and then let us proceed with Credit Suisse to close this agreement,” he said.
Unsure why the Government refused Patriotic’s offer, Roget called on the public to keep a close eye on sale. He wondered whether the Cabinet or TPHL members had their preferred operator for the assets, especially as they expect someone to acquire and operate the refinery in quick time. He also questioned whether the Government was talking to another potential operator while negotiating with Patriotic.
Asked how Patriotic was moving ahead, Roget said they were awaiting responses to letters sent to Imbert and Khan on Monday night. Following this, the union will have a meeting of its general council to plan its next move. He stressed that a Patriotic acquisition of the refinery was important to the economy, as it would provide jobs, foreign exchange and hope to a country in crisis.
The Government shut down Petrotrin in 2018, terminating approximately 5,000 employees. According to Roget, many are still unemployed in 2021. He said they have the knowledge and are willing and ready to get back on the job.