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Updated: 1 hour 37 min ago

New RBL credit card caters to travellers

14 hours 30 min ago

The newly launched Republic AAdvantage Visa Infinite credit card is designed to meet the needs of an under-served, but high-end clientele.

This was revealed Tuesday’s launch of the sophisticated travel-related card at Fanatic Kitchen, Dere Street, Port-of-Spain. Anthony Wong, Republic Bank Ltd’s (RBL) general manager for electronic channels and payments said the bank saw it as its duty to continue to provide high calibre products and services that surpasses customer expectations.

The first card was presented to Olympic sailor Andrew Lewis.

“The Republic Bank AAdvantage Visa Infinite Credit Card is something that clients will want to own, as it offers not only an unprecedented array of benefits, it also affords some of the best that both Republic Bank and Visa International have to offer,” Wong said.

Benefits of the new card include trip cancellation coverage of up to US$3,000, as well as coverage for travellers when trips are delayed, or a connecting flight is missed, in the amount of US$300 in each instance. Apart from the price protection feature of up to US$4,000 per account per annum, there is purchase protection insurance, not exceeding US$20,000.

“As you have seen and most definitely will see, the Republic Bank AAdvantage Visa Infinite credit card is a product quite like no other. Without question or reservation, we offer it to you as a solution to many of your travels concerns and as an extension of your active lifestyle,” Wong said.

“The satisfaction that American Airlines, Visa International and Republic Bank feel in bringing this product to life and to you can only be surpassed by the satisfaction you actually derive from it. 

“We truly believe, given all we’ve shared today that this will very well come to be,” Wong said.

Derwin Howell, executive director at RBL, said the goal of the bank is to achieve this level of utility for its clients from inception, which is realised through collaboration with international partners.

“Once again, we have found a way to do that and much more and I thank them for their continued commitment and support. Any new credit card that we offer to our clients, regardless of the credit limits and types of rewards, has to align with their desires and needs if the card is to be of any use to them. We have listened to you and today we offer this new card, as an extension of service to you, in line with your desires and a card truly befitting of the Republic Bank name,” he said.

“This comes at a time when we continue to redefine our leadership position within an increasingly competitive local credit card industry; an industry that is only three decades or so old, but whose evolution and growth has been dynamic and in which competition is extremely fierce. There are over 95,000 Republic Bank credit card in circulation and each of these is specifically centered on serving a particular market.”

While every major bank has credit cards and tailors them accordingly, the market is not saturated. Howell said this highlights the opportunity to constantly review, understand and address the ever-growing and ever-changing needs of clients and to provide targeted products to meet those needs.

“We examined our current range of credit card products and services and concluded that our high value, frequent travelling clients needed more in the way of an actual product adapted to their lifestyles. The Republic Bank AAdvantage Visa Infinite Credit Card fits that bill and will open new vistas to our valued clients who use the card,” Howell said.

Demand pushes up price of Govt bond

14 hours 31 min ago

The US$1 billion ten-year bond successfully launched by the T&T Government in New York on Thursday is its first international bond issue in three years.

The bond issue was formally opened to orders at 8 am and by 10:30 am, it was more than three times oversubscribed, with US$3.5 billion in orders received from more than 250 international investors, thus allowing the country to comfortably raise the targetted US$1 billion, with prospects for raising additional amounts in excess of the required US$1 billion, an official release from the Ministry of Finance stated.

The statement continued: “The original price for the bond was set at 4.625 per cent. However, the significant interest and demand from international investors buttressed by strong demand from the local investor community, allowed the final price of the bond to be tightened to 4.5 per cent. This pricing is reflective of the confidence of investors in the Government’s management of the economy and the medium term fiscal and monetary outlook. The 4.5 per cent interest cost of the bond compares very favourably with recent Government bond issues.”

The Ministry release said the pricing of the bond followed a comprehensive roadshow in the major world financial centres of Los Angeles, London, Boston and New York over the period July 25 to 27. It involved one-on-one meetings with over 30 targetted investors in different locations, where presentations were made followed by robust question-and-answer sessions on the T&T economy, revenue and expenditure, fiscal and monetary policy, oil and gas production, state enterprises, macroeconomic policy, foreign reserves, debt management, management of the T&T currency and the exchange rate, among other things.

The delegation for the roadshow was headed by Finance Minister Colm Imbert and included the Finance Secretary, Tobago House of Assembly, Joel Jack; Adviser to the Minister of Finance and former Governor of the Central Bank Ewart Williams; Permanent Secretaries in the Ministry of Finance, Maurice Suite and Suzette Taylor-Lee Chee; two senior managers of the Central Bank and assistant director, Economic Management Division, Ministry of Finance, Sandra Fraser-James. 

The delegation was split into two teams, with one team headed by Imbert travelling to Los Angeles and New York and the other team headed by Suite travelling to London and Boston, with both teams rejoining in New York on Thursday.

The joint lead managers for the bond issue were Deutsche Bank and First Citizens Bank, with FCB’s CEO Karen Darbasie, heading the First Citizen’s team who, among other things was charged with the responsibility of building the local investor book, since, in keeping with initial objectives, a portion of the bond was earmarked for local investors.

Proceeds of the bond are to be utilised to finance T&T’s development programme over the rest of this fiscal year as well as over the 2017 fiscal year.

Manufacturers urged to increase output

14 hours 33 min ago

Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon wants local manufacturers to consider operating round the clock to increase their output and boost exports. 

The minister, recalling last month’s effort to export to Venezuela, said she is satisfied that manufacturers were successful in entering that market but said it is now time for them to improve their export potential.

In late June, the Venezuelan government offered to purchase US$50 million in goods from T&T but manufacturers were only able to provide US$26 million worth.

Gopee-Scoon, who spoke with reporters on the sidelines of yesterday’s Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Symposium at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre, said the movement into Venezuela is a good start and might be “a signal to the manufacturers that they can in fact begin to look at a third shift, working seven days per week.” 

“That’s what we want. It means increased jobs, increased opportunities for all, profit and foreign exchange earnings, so its a win win situation.”

In a separate interview, T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) president Dr Rolph Balgobin told the T&T Guardian manufacturers are ready to take another batch of goods into Venezuela next month. However, he is not yet able to say what the value of that shipment would be.

Gopee-Scoon said Venezuela might be a lucrative market for T&T and Government is very pleased that manufacturers were able to re-enter and had “done well” to penetrate that market.

“The discussions continue between the TTMA and the actual business people. We want to expand the products that we are sending to Venezuela. We are looking at hardware items that are manufactured in T&T. We are going to continue to support our manufacturers with their exports into Venezuela and Cuba,” she said.

On the issue of manufacturers getting paid on time, the minister said T&T had started off on a successful footing by getting payment in advance from Venezuela. However, she added, there is need to look at the products or incentives offered by Eximbank so payment can be more timely, especially if T&T is to deepen its footprint in neighbouring markets.

She said: “We expect to sustain trade with that market as well and with Cuba. What it means is that we have to look at some of the products we are doing through Eximbank in terms of the discounting of trade and manufacturers’ goods into these countries as well. 

“Once we are able to get these discounting facilties going it means our manufacturers would in fact be paid ahead (of time) by the countries which they have exported to. We have confidence in these markets and we will continue to explore these markets...the Venezuelan and the Cuban markets. We are satisfied that payments are assured.”

Gopee-Scoon said diversification not only means new products but new markets and Cuba provides a great opportunity for manufacturers and the business community.

“We really want to have a fair exchange. We have a good presence in T&T of Cuban health professionals and we expect these agreements to continue. We look as well at Cuban medication because they do manufacture medication there, the Minister of Health is looking at that. 

“Cuba is an open market and it’s there for both countries to benefit from-diversification yes, certainly into other markets. We’ve had tremendous growth there are a number of companies that are marketing there goods to Cuba without difficulty.”


ANSA McAL acquires US brewery

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 09:37

ANSA McAL US yesterday announced its stock purchase acquisition of Indian River Beverage Corporation (IRBC), which operates the Indian River Brewery under Florida Beer Company in central Florida.

The Indian River Brewery, the third largest brewery in the State of Florida, produces various beer brands which are distributed throughout the United States and has contracts for many global brands. 

The acquisition of Indian River Beverage Corporation marks ANSA McAL’s first purchase of a private brewing production facility in the United States.  

Highly experienced in the production of malt beverage “beer” brands with local flavour and international appeal, ANSA McAL’s beverage sector currently owns and operates Carib Brewery, one of the largest and well established local brewing companies in the Caribbean. 

With over 1,000 employees, Carib Brewery produces the much loved Carib beer, commonly referred to as the “beer of the Caribbean” and Carib Light. Carib Brewery also brews Stag beer and a range of Shandy Carib products. 

ANSA McAL has expanded Carib Brewery’s facilities and has allowed the brewery to meet the increasing demands of its local market, as well as to export to international destinations including the United States. 

ANSA McAL hopes to bring this unique experience to the Indian River Beverage Corporation in the United States, while expanding and maximizing production efficiency for their Caribbean brands and the brewery’s local clients.

Anthony N Sabga III, Group Business Development Executive and Sector Head, Beverage, speaking on behalf of the ANSA McAL Group, referred to this latest addition to the beverage sector as exciting.

“The milestones attained by Carib Brewery through the abundance of heritage and quality, have earned us the distinction of bringing quality life to the Caribbean diaspora and beyond.  We are proud of our local roots and enthusiastic at the prospect of this new addition to our three other breweries located in Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis.”

RBL issues $2b bond to fund Budget

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 09:25

Republic Bank Limited (RBL) has announced the successful execution of a $2 billion fixed rate bond to Government to assist with financing of the 2015/2016 Budget. This is the single largest fully underwritten commitment for the bank, to date. The bank received notice of the award of mandate on June 17 and was able to achieve disbursement on June 29. 

RBL was the sole arranger for the bond, which has a 14-year term with a fixed interest rate of 4.50 per cent per annum.  

Executive Director of RBL, Roopnarine Oumade Singh, said: “Republic Bank has partnered with the private and public sectors in developing the economies of Caribbean region for many years and we are very pleased to be able to support the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, through this bond. We are a strong bank and we have always subscribed to the philosophy that if we have the capacity to help another then we must. 

“Whether public or private, we are sectors of the same nation and if we are to continue moving Trinidad and Tobago successfully into the future, we must bring our strengths to the fore and work together.” 

This is not the first time that the bank has assisted governments through bond flotations. RBL’s Merchant Bank subsidiary, Fincor, which was merged into Republic Financial Holdings Limited last year, floated its first government bond in 1986—a bond valued at over $200 million. In the decades, since, the bank has become a pioneer in the development of bonds, notes, shares and other capital market instruments throughout the Caribbean. 

Govt’s US$1b bond oversubscribed

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 09:22

Government’s US roadshow to float a US$1 billion bond has been oversubscribed  by  three and a half times,  Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young said yesterday.

Young, who spoke at the post-Cabinet media conference, said Finance Minister Colm Imbert who is in the US leading a T&T delegation on a roadshow to promote the bond, sent  him a text message on the outcome of the issue.

 Imbert announced plans a few weeks ago to do the roadshow, pitching to several US financial institutions, to raise a total US$1 billion through sale of 10 and 12 year international bonds. This is to raise funds to finance development programmes and for budgetary purposes.

The bond was due to be priced  yesterday. Its price—the amount of interest it will pay twice a year for ten years—is expected to be between 4.40 per cent and 4.95 per cent.

 The roadshow team, which included officials from the Finance Ministry, Central Bank and Tobago House of Assembly, worked via two teams in  Los Angeles and New York and also targeted investors in Boston and other locations. Presentations were  made to approximately 20  premier international banks and investors.

Young said Imbert had texted to him that the “bond (was) successful” and also confirmed the interest was so great that it was oversubscribed  three and half times at an interest rate of four and a half percent. Young said this demonstrated a  great level of confidence by the international market  “in T&T paper” and Government’s  handling of the economy. He said a similar high level of interest was displayed when Republic Bank did a $2b bond issue locally.

Although the US bond was oversubscribed by three and a half percent, Young said,  Government would only be pursuing the US$1b level. He referred  queries on  whether the bond funding would be used to pay contractors to Imbert and said Government’s positions is that all legitimate claims will be paid. He also said  Imbert, who is due back in the country early next week, will deal with postal workers’ and other payments issues.

JMMB ITT’s total income up 69%

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 01:55

In only its second full year of operations in this country, JMMB Investments (T&T) Limited (JMMB ITT) has achieved profit after tax of $865,000 for the 2015/2016 financial year.

This was a marginal increase of two per cent over the previous year but the company also recorded a significant growth in core profits, with an increase of 69 per cent in total income from $5.8 million in 2014/2015 to $9.9 million at the close of the financial year ended March 31. Net interest income grew by 62 per cent closing at TT$4.8 million and driven by the 88 per cent growth in the investment portfolio.

Other income, with fees and commissions earned through JMMB Securities Limited accounting for 66 per cent, was consistent with the prior year closing at $3.3 million. However, revenues on securities trading, the other main contributor to other income, declined by 20 per cent year-on-year, consistent with fewer opportunities available to take advantage of price movements in the bond and equity markets.

JMMB ITT’s operating expenses closed the financial year at $9 million—an increase of 48 per cent. This resulted in an operating efficiency ratio of 91 per cent, an improvement over the previous financial year. 

“The main drivers of operating costs were staff expenses (55 per cent of total expenses) with several critical roles being filled during the year and premises rental (11 per cent of total expenses) as the company moved to a new location to accommodate its growing sales team and allow for greater visibility of the company and the JMMB brand,” the company stated in its annual report.

Total assets grew by 83 per cent with the investment portfolio as the main contributor to the increase. 

The company reported: “There was a gradual but constant growth in the portfolio over the year which closed at $226 million, 88 per cent higher than the prior year. A corresponding increase was seen in its Securities Sold under Agreements to Repurchase (Repo) portfolio which grew by 83 per cent to close at $185 million at the end of fiscal 2015/2016.”

JMMB said the primary focus of its T&T operations will continue to be around creating increased awareness of the JMMB brand in the local market. 

“The rebranding of IBL Bank to JMMB Bank represents a significant milestone in JMMB’s history in the Trinidad and Tobago market as it will solidify the JMMB Group Brand in this market,” the company said. 

“This brand equity coupled with our client experience model will translate to increased market penetration and greater share of wallet, resulting in significant growth in revenues from the entire Trinidad portfolio as we seek to enhance group revenues.”

JMMB ITT is a subsidiary of JMMB Group Limited which  provides various investment solutions, banking, remittances, and insurance brokering services for individual, corporate, and institutional customers in Jamaica, T&T, and the Dominican Republic. Founded in 1992, the group is headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica.

OHSA chairman laments at safety forum: Lack of dismissals over violations

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 01:47

In the last 15 years, Petrotrin has recorded 14 work-related deaths and 29 loss-of-time injuries but chairman of the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OHSA), Dr Victor Coombs, says no one is being fired for safety violations.

Coombs, who spent 30 years at Petrotrin and served as its chief medical officer, said despite training people on proper health and safety methods and providing signage, consequence management is lacking within the local energy industry. 

In the feature address at the annual Production Alliances’ HSE leadership forum at the Pointe-a-Pierre Staff Club, he said even when 40 people died in a fire at Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre port decades ago, no one lost their job.

The Production Alliance comprises Petrotrin and its contractors and is aimed at developing and enforcing proper safety management systems. 

Coombs said there were too many “yes men” as managers who were afraid to speak out. He told HSE professionals and managers at the forum they should always speak the truth, even if it cost them their jobs, as it might save lives.

“Yes we go and we teach people HSE. Yes we put the colour coding but consequence management is lacking. 

“When last you heard somebody getting fired in Petrotrin for some HSE breach? Some fellas who thief a couple barrels of oil on the port, they get fired one time. When last you heard a manager get fired for any HSE breach?” he asked

“I can recall one but they did not fire him, they asked him to resign. They gave him an early retirement. In the 30 years I have been around, there was one who was asked to go. Even in that fire down at the port where 40 people died, nobody got fired. 

“Where is consequence management? If we are really serious about HSE and we are really going to practise consequence management, people have to take responsibility for those beneath them,” Combs added.

Petrotrin president, Fitzroy Harewood, said while the company’s approach to survive low oil and gas prices was important, its greatest burden was its inability to be proud of its safety performance completely. 

He said the company averaged a work-related death every 14-15 months when the only acceptable figure for fatalities was zero.

Harewood said Petrotrin did not categorise incidents based on employees or contractors as it sought to develop effective safety management systems throughout the company. 

He said Petrotrin was also challenged with squatting and land encroachment as it also owed a duty of care to the communities around its large acreage, adding that they will have to take look into how citizens interact with their many facilities.

Second quarter revenue of $506.6m for TCL

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 01:46

Trinidad Cement Limited’s (TCL) revenue for the second quarter of the year reached $506.6 million, up by six per cent from the first quarter.

The company’s latest financial report, which has been posted on the T&T Stock Exchange, shows that this increase in revenue was driven by an increase of domestic sales in Jamaica. However, revenue was 12 per cent lower than for the same period in 2015 due to lower volumes sold in T&T, lower export volume of clinker sold to Venezuela and a nine per cent decrease in prices mainly in Barbados and Guyana. 

In a joint statement to shareholders, TCL chairman Wilfred Espinet and director Nigel Edwards said two major items of restructuring costs had a negative impact on income. The group incurred severance costs of $22.2 million due primarily to a manpower restructuring exercise in Jamaica and also undertook a comprehensive review of its inventory of spares and consumables which resulted in a negative adjustment to  inventories of $72.9 million

“Together, the impact of these onetime expenses was a reduction in net income by $95.1 million. As a result, our first half net income was $45.3million, however, adjusting for the impact of those onetime restructuring expenses, our net income for the first half would have been $129.5 million.”

NGL closes $0.77 lower at $23.75

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 01:46

Overall market activity resulted from trading in ten securities of which three advanced, five declined and two traded firm.

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 219,171 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $7,478,255.99. ANSA McAL Limited was the volume leader with 85,684 shares changing hands for a value of $5,312,408, followed by GraceKennedy Limited with a volume of 40,000 shares being traded for $236,000. T&T NGL Limited contributed 26,062 shares with a value of $618,972.50, while Scotiabank T&T Limited added 21,559 shares valued at $1,186,154.50.

GraceKennedy Limited enjoyed the day's largest gain, increasing $0.13 to end the day at $5.90. Conversely, T&T NGL Limited suffered the day's greatest loss, falling $0.77 to close at $23.75.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 16,438 shares valued at $373,990.60. It declined by $0.05 to end at $22.75.

IFC CEO hands in his resignation

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 01:44

Varun Maharaj is stepping down as CEO of the T&T International Financial Centre (IFC). Maharaj tendered his resignation, which takes effect on July 31, on June 30. However, his last working day is Friday.

In a brief telephone interview yesterday, Maharaj said it was time for him to move on in his professional and personal life. 

“I felt that it was time to move on and consider new opportunities in my professional life. I am considering a few options, one of which could be self-employment,” he said. 

The IFC announced the resignation in a brief media release yesterday morning.

Maharaj before his tenure at the IFC in February 2013. Prior to that, he held senior-level financial positions in T&T and Barbados. He was an executive director at the Ansa Merchant Bank, managing director at Intercommercial Bank Limited, investment manager at ANSA McAL Group and chief investment officer at the Caribbean Development Bank. 

T&T lagging behind region in tourism

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 01:42

T&T’s tourism industry is lagging behind the rest of the Caribbean says Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe who is calling for more focus to be placed on its development. 

Cudjoe, in the feature address at the symposium Tourism is My Business hosted jointly by the Tourism Development Company (TDC) and the Small Tourism Enterprises Project (STEP) at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain, said: “We have become very dependent and very comfortable relying on the energy sector and in this current time we have learned that we can’t do that anymore.” 

The minister said for many years the call for diversification and investments in the tourism sector had been ignored causing T&T’s tourism sector to fall further behind countries in the region.

“Over the year’s red flags were being raised and the alarm was being sounded that we needed to diversify the economy but we became complacent so that even as the alarms went off, the calls for diversification were ignored,” Cudjoe said.

“Now we have no other choice but to get up and move aggressively to put the necessary measures in place to reposition the tourism sector. For this government, the tourism sector is a strategic development priority.”

She said a change of mindset is needed: “For many years jobs in the tourism sector, be it in hotels or restaurants, were seen as jobs for poor people or people who didn’t excel academically. 

“To a large extent today that type of thinking is still alive so are confronted with the challenge of having to change the mindset as it relates to building a career in the tourism industry.”

Cudjoe cited statistics from the World Tourism Organization (WTO) which show that growth in the global tourism industry is expected to outstrip growth in the global economy over next decade.

She said: “In 2015, travel and tourism contributed US$7.2 trillion to world GDP with the sector supporting 284 million jobs and growing by 3.1 per cent. It is projected that travel and tourism will outperform the global economy throughout the next decade growing by an average of four per cent annually through the next ten years.”

The minister added that the Caribbean had set new records in terms of spending and tourist arrivals and tourism grew by an estimated seven per cent to 28.7 million visits, much higher than the expected 4-5 per cent predicted and above the global rate of growth. 

“Visitors to the region spent over US$1 billion more than they spent in 2014 contributing to approximately US$30 billion to Caribbean economies which is 4.2 per cent higher than the US$28.8 billion spent in the previous year.” she said.

Cuffie calls for lower internet rates

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 00:45

Communications and Public Administration Minister Maxie Cuffie wants internet service providers to lower their rates. He made the call at a dinner for the 2016 Broadband Caribbean Forum hosted by the Telecommunications Authority of T&T (TATT) and the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain. 

Cuffie, who raised the issue well before Flow announced plans this week to increase prices for its services, was applauded only by one member of the audience comprised mainly of executives from telecommunications companies and agencies. He did not let that single positive reaction to his call go unnoticed.

“We cannot escape the design of history that has placed a responsibility upon each and every one of us in this room, to create a better tomorrow for the millions who live in our regions,” the minister said.

“We could either bite the bullet and accept the challenge, or pass the responsibility to the next generation. The government of T&T has taken the decision to bite the bullet. Indeed, as we wrestle with the implications of a significant reduction in our revenues from oil and gas, we are determined to lay the ground work to ensure that broadcasting and telecommunications become one of the next engines of growth in the local economy.”

Cuffie said the imminent launch of a Wi-Fi on buses programme is part of a wider policy to increase the level of broadband access across the country. He said Government is committed to providing a free island-wide public broadband wireless network. 

“We are convinced that this singular policy will enhance meaningfully the quality of life enjoyed by our citizens, opening up vistas of possibility for those with ambition and purpose, to realise dreams they once thought unreachable. 

“One of the knock-on effects of this policy, we believe, will be a reduction in internet rates. There can be no disputing the fact that an island-wide broadband system will allow access to goods and services at reduced rates because of the internet ecosystem is based on competition,” he said.

Cuffie said the lack of affordable broadband made it harder for poor citizens to spend their limited income more efficiently, because they are unable access the competitive market.

In the same way the broadcast media industry was liberalised by his predecessors to the point where more than 35 radio stations, seven television stations as well as daily and weekly newspapers were in operation, he said, liberalisation of the internet and broadband market will radically alter T&T’s technology landscape.

The minister said by increasing and bringing market forces to bear on the industry, legislators could get at the heart of issues that historically undermine the ability of low income consumers to have access to services comparable to what those with greater disposable income enjoy.

“If we agree that we are all on the same path to ensuring that broadband access is critical to supporting life in the 21st century, then I am certain we can find the synergies amongst ourselves that would assist our government in moving this from a conference theme to a budgeted item,” Cuffie said. 

$1.4m in trades in 15 securities

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 00:43

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 15 securities of which three advanced, two declined and ten traded firm.

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 121,488 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $1,437,302.22. Scotia Investments Jamaica Limited was the volume leader with 30,000 shares changing hands for a value of $52,500, followed by JMMB Group Limited with a volume of 27,500 shares being traded for $17,400. T&T NGL Limited contributed 19,592 shares with a value of $480,408.44, while Sagicor Financial Corporation added 17,625 shares valued at $123,454.25.

Clico Investment Fund enjoyed the day's largest gain, increasing $0.05 to end the day at $22.80. Conversely, T&T NGL Limited suffered the day's greatest loss, falling $0.23 to close at $24.52.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 3,730 shares valued at $85,044.

Rambharat wants more money for agriculture

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 00:41

Determined to improve support for agriculture in rural communities, Minister of AgricultureClarence Rambharat yesterday said he will be asking for increased funding in the 2016/2017 Budget.

He did not give a specific figure but said: “Whatever we get, it will be utilised in a way that improves what we do for farmers and fishermen.”

Rambharat, who spoke to the T&T Guardian on the sidelines of a Regional Consultation on Traditional Farmer Knowledge and Innovative Practices at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, said he is not satisfied with the resources available to rural farming communities.

“Rural communities are serviced by agriculture offices. We don’t have all the technical capacity and we don’t have all the administrative capacity in terms of decision making. The priority is to first improve physical conditions by putting more resources, then improving the human resource we have in those offices,” he said

Rambharat, who had earlier delivered the feature address at the event, importing raw materials to boost local food production is much cheaper than importing produce which farmers can grow here.

“Government is committed to ensuring that the pesticides and herbicides that are imported are affordable to the farmers. At the same time, we are committed to ensuring that those that have been declared to be dangerous and are still allowed into T&T are in fact banned. We have programmes in place to ensure reduced use of pesticides and herbicides. We understand farmers would want to use chemicals but we have to use it in a safe way.”

Yesterday’s consultation, hosted by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Cardi), the Inter America Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA) and Caricom with funding from the European Union, is aimed at gathering information from around the region on traditional and innovative farming practices as part of an initiative under the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme (APP).

Sessions include experiences from the field in small farming systems, defining 3-4 traditional knowledge thematic areas and good practices and the scope of the regional support programme for action, role of youth and women in agriculture and the transfer of knowledge and the role of traditional knowledge transfer on resilient farming systems.

Eclac says 2.5 per cent decline for T&T

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 00:40

The Economic Commission for Latin American and Caribbean (Eclac) says T&T will suffer a -2.5 per cent economic contraction this year. 

In its latest Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean 2016 released in Santiago, Chile, yesterday, the UN agency listed this country among six the region expected to suffer declines this year. The others and Venezuela, Suriname, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina

The Caribbean will suffer a 0.3 per cent contraction in its gross domestic product (GDP) and there will be a 0.8 per cent contraction in growth rate for Latin America and the Caribbean overall—a steeper decline than the 0.5 per cent recorded last year. 

Eclac said the data underscores the urgent need to mobilize public and private investment to promote the region’s economic recovery and meet the challenges imposed by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“The capacity of countries to accelerate economic growth depends on the spaces for adopting policies that support investment. These policies should be accompanied by efforts to change the conversation between the public sector and private companies. Increasing productivity is also a key challenge for moving forward along a path of dynamic and stable growth,” said Alicia Bárcena, Eclac Executive Secretary during a press conference for the launch of the report.

The survey indicates that in the external arena, the global economy will maintain low levels of growth, which will be accompanied by a slow expansion in trade, which has not managed to recover the levels seen before the international financial crisis. On top of this, the report points to deteriorated prices for the region’s commodities exports and greater international financial uncertainty and volatility, which have increased since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (Brexit). This decision has also produced greater risks to the world’s future growth.

In the regional sphere, the report forecasts a -2.1 per cent contraction for South America, mainly due to a deterioration in its terms of trade, weaker external demand and a significant deceleration in domestic demand, which reflects a sizeable fall in domestic investment.

Central America will grow 3.8 per cent thanks to the boost coming from its improved terms of trade (resulting from lower hydrocarbons prices), the recovery of its external and domestic demand, and increased income from remittances. 

On the other hand, regional growth will be led by the Dominican Republic (6.0 per cent), Panama (5.9 per cent), Nicaragua and Bolivia (4.5 per cent), and Costa Rica (4.3 per cent).

“Faced with an economic contraction, the region needs progressive structural change with a big environmental push that promotes development based on equality and sustainability, as we have proposed in our institutional document Horizons 2030: Equality at the Centre of Sustainable Development, which we presented in Mexico last May,” Bárcena said.

According to the Eclac report, economic deceleration will have an impact on the urban unemployment rate, which in 2015 was 7.4 per cent and which is expected to increase to 8.1 per cent this year. Inflation, meanwhile, should behave similarly to that of last year, with greater pressures on southern economies.

The agency said resuming the path of growth and mobilizing financial flows for development financing requires that countries must change their fiscal structures to improve tax collection and progressivity, strengthen income taxes (both for individuals and companies), and fight tax evasion and avoidance, which reached the equivalent of 6.7 points of the regional GDP in 2015 at an estimated US$340 billion.

Additionally, it is necessary to promote renewed public-private coalitions and policies that create appropriate incentives to channel financing towards development goals. Also, financial inclusion should be strengthened as a policy of productive insertion through the creation of markets and new innovative instruments.

Construction decline hits Readymix revenue

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 05:41

A decline in construction activity in the first half of the year has resulted in a 44 per cent decline in revenue for T&T’s largest pre-mixed concrete supplier, Readymix (West Indies) Ltd.

The company’s interim consolidated financial report for the six months ended June 30 show that concrete and aggregate sales volumes for the second quarter of 2016 were lower than for the corresponding period in 2015 by 42 per cent and 39 per cent respectively.

In a statement accompanying the report, which was posted on the T&T Stock Exchange, chairman Nigel Edwards and director Luis Gilberto Ali Moya, said competitive forces in the construction sector had put downward pressure on the prices of the company’s concrete and aggregate products. As a result, the second quarter revenue of $38.2 million was down by 44 per cent compared to second quarter 2015.

They told shareholders: “In the circumstances, we have been focused on cost management and cost containment. Notwithstanding, additional payroll costs recognised in Q2 negatively impacted results. 

“Arising from this, the company recorded a net loss for the second quarter of $2.5 million compared to a profit of $5 million for the comparative 2015 period. For the half year to June 2016, a net loss after tax of $3.2 million was recorded compared to a net profit of $7.5 million in 2015 comparative period.

“Management does not anticipate an improvement in the construction sector for the remainder of 2016, and therefore will continue to focus on cost reduction and improvement in operational efficiency. Notwithstanding the difficult market conditions, management is also focused on increasing market share and exploring new markets.”

Readymix is a member of the TCL Group.

Work begins on strengthening SEW

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 05:38

The Single Electronic Window (SEW) for Trade and Business Facilitation is being strengthened to allow for improved interoperability in the exchange and analysis of data with the information systems at the Ports at Port-of-Spain and Point Lisas, the Customs and Excise Division and the information systems of T&T’s strategic trading partners.

Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, who recently chaired the Inaugural Inter-Ministerial Committee Meeting for SEW, this is part of ongoing efforts to improve the country’s trade performance and business facilitation environment.

“Interoperability between ministries and the involvement of the Customs and Excise Division is pivotal to the success of the project,” she said, adding that enhancing and expanding the services of the SEW will focus on upgrading the current system to international best practices. 

In addition, she said the governance and the institutional framework of SEW will be modernized by addressing the deficiencies in the regulatory framework, process architecture and institutional governance.

During the meeting, Randall Karim, Director-Strategy, Business Facilitation and Programme Management at the Trade Ministry, gave a detailed presentation on the strengthening of the SEW, which is an Inter-American Development Bank-funded project.

Among those taking part in the detailed and extensive two hour discussions were Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh, Works Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, Public Administration and Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie, Comptroller of Customs Glen Singh, Jerry Hospedales of the Ministry of Finance and Walda Dottin-Matthews, Advisor to the Minister of Planning and Development. 

Other members of the Committee include the Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat and Stuart Young, Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs.

Agriculture Minister: Money laundering thriving in T&T

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 05:37

Despite the efforts of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and passage of laws aimed at stemming money laundering, the illegal trade continues to thrive in T&T, says Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat.

Speaking on the subject, Hard Economic Realities Facing T&T, at the Employers’ Consultative Association’s Leadership Conference at its Training Room in Aranguez, the minister said no matter how well capitalised an organisation was and its wealth of talent, it could not get away from the issues of disruption and distortions caused by money laundering.

Rambharat said other illicit practices affecting the economic health of T&T included illegal quarrying, the illegal diesel trade and gambling, each of which generated $5 billion annually and cost the Treasury $15 billion in revenue for the same period. 

Money laundering, he said, is not designed to turn a profit and serves as nothing more than an impediment to the legal transactions of bonafide entrepreneurs and investors. Businesses formed to wash money through this country’s financial system, therefore, are able to provide goods and service way below cost and compete unfairly with bonafide organisations. 

Rambharat said the FIU has identified certain types of business that are more susceptible to money laundering. They include real estate, some professional services, businesses related to the trade in jewelry, restaurants and construction companies.

“Any activities where you are able to justify a flow of funds makes the business susceptible to money laundering and if you are a bonafide business enterprise trying to compete in an environment where you face under pricing by people who are not in legitimate business, then it’s a challenge to compete and it’s a challenge to maintain profitability and sustain your businesses,” he said.

The minister added, “The foreign flow of funds into our region and into T&T is very, very disruptive. Look around and see. In Rio Claro, my area, I never expected to see four casinos, where I could visit all four within a five-minute walk. If you look around the country you see in some very rural communities, the proliferation of casinos and then you would see the proliferation of gambling machines.

“In fact, many establishments which were previously rum shops, were air conditioned, the doors tinted and rented out. You push the door and you see a massive roulette machine there and if you stand up outside, you see people showing up as though they were showing up for work. So the flow of foreign funds into and by the way out of this country creates distortions and disruptions.”

Rambharat said supermarket traders in rural communities are under siege as a direct result of “businesses” with less than honourable intent. 

But it is not just the flow of funds into this country that should be of concern but the flow of funds from these shores, too, he said.

“Funds flow into T&T from one part of the world and are passed through seemingly legitimate businesses in T&T, but the ultimate destination for these funds is North America. That is where the real investment in real estate takes place, but the source of funds has to be identified to meet the strict North American banking requirements. 

“The movement of the funds, directly from certain parts of the world into North America are heavily scrutinised, so those funds are passed through countries like T&T, legistimised and sent back out,” said Rambharat.

“And, if you have any doubt, go to one of those businesses that allows you to send foreign currency out of the country. Go on a Monday morning. Watch the line-up and watch the type of money in T&T dollars being converted and sent out of the country routinely.” 

G-20 countries pledge to protect against Brexit shock

Mon, 07/25/2016 - 01:57

BEIJING—Global finance officials promised yesterday to protect the world economy from the shockwaves of Britain’s European Union referendum and to boost sluggish growth.

Envoys of the Group of 20 major economies also rejected trade protectionism, an issue that has risen in prominence as US Republication presidential candidate Donald Trump stirs unease with talk about restricting access to American markets.

The gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors from the United States, China, Britain, Germany and other governments took place against a backdrop of a weak global recovery that was rattled by Britain’s vote to leave the EU and trade tension over Chinese exports of low-priced steel.

The British vote “increased global economic uncertainty,” said a joint statement by the officials, who were meeting in Chengdu in western China.

“G-20 members are ready to actively respond to the potential economic and financial impact brought by the British referendum,” said the statement. “In the future, we hope to see Britain as a close partner of the EU.”

On Friday, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, called for quick action to end uncertainty about the British-EU split. She said that turmoil prompted the IMF to cut its forecast of this year’s global growth by 0.1 percentage point.

Yesterday’s statement promised to use “any and all policy instruments” to achieve “strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth objectives.” The governments promised to strengthen communication and cooperation but announced no joint action, as some financial traders had hoped.

“We are taking action to boost confidence and promote growth,” said the statement.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said ahead of the meeting that it was not the right time for coordinated action similar to that in 2008-09 following the global crisis because economies face different conditions.

“Overall, the general sense was that the outlook remains uncertain,” Lew said in a statement yesterday. “There is now broad consensus that what the global economy needs is growth—not austerity—and the discussions here have focused on how best to achieve that outcome.”
The envoys also pledged to avoid devaluing currencies to boost exports.

“We will oppose all forms of protectionism,” their statement said.

Trump, who was named the Republican Party’s nominee for president on Friday, setting up a race with presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, has called for measures to protect American industry, though he has given no details.

National leaders of the G-20 economies are due to meet in September in Hangzhou, southwest of Shanghai.

The G-20 statement also cited the importance of reducing excess production capacity in steel and other industries that has led to a glut of supply and depressed prices. That is a source of tension between China and trading partners that accuse Beijing of exporting steel at improperly low prices, hurting competitors and threatening a loss of jobs.