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UTC’s net income jumps 64% on gain from property transfer

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 23:55

The Unit Trust Corporation (UTC) recorded a 64 per cent increase in its net income for the six-month period ending June 30, 2016, according to the mutual fund company’s financial results, which were posted on its website on Monday.

The $157.1 million in net income includes a gain of $63.7 million that the company booked from the winding up of UTC Properties Ltd, and the distribution of its assets, which comprised various properties, to the Unit Trust Corporation.

Explaining the transaction, which took place in the second quarter, the UTC said: “UTC Properties Ltd (UPL), is a subsidiary company of the Unit Trust Corporation. It was established years ago to manage the buildings and other properties owned by the corporation. 

“These properties were transferred to the Unit Trust Corporation, and as such, the UTC Properties company was no longer needed and was voluntarily wound up by the UTC. The decision to liquidate UPL is part of our core strategy to align our resources to improve efficiencies and reduce cost.”

Also reported in the UTC’s financials was the sale of assets in the UTC’s Growth and Income Fund worth $492 million to the Calypso Macro Index Fund at market prices.

The corporation explained that the assets were sold “in order to rebalance the portfolio and to make room for the purchase of energy shares in PPGPL and TTNGL.” 

The UTC’s distributions to unitholders also registered an 86 per cent increase, jumping from $265.3 million for the first six months of 2015 to $127.6 million for the first six months of 2016.

Of this increase, the corporation said: “The substantial increase in distributions to unitholders was as a result of rising interest rates and increased dividend income which were passed on to our unitholders, in particular the flagship Growth and Income Fund and the TT$ Income Fund, the two largest funds representing about $15 billion in funds under management, in keeping with our mandate.” 

The UTC’s gross income climbed by 49 per cent to $611.6 million and its net income after guarantee charges jumped by 75 per cent to $466.7 million.

TTNGL profits down

TTNGL recorded a 17 per cent drop in year-on-year after-tax profits for the six-month period ending June 30th 2016, the company announced in a stock exchange filing on Monday. 

The company’s financial statements showed that profit for the six-month period declined to $72.19 million as at June 2016 from $87.34 million in June 2015. 

But TTNGL recorded total comprehensive profits of $190.1 million for the January to June 2016 period, which was more than double the $80.8 million for the comparable period in 2015, based on a $118 million exchange translation difference.

The company’s total assets grew by 9.4 per cent however, moving from $3.00 billion to $3.27 billion. The company’s cash position stood at $103.7 million as at June 30th. Earnings per share for the half year period stood at $0.47, a 16 per cent drop from $0.56 for the comparable period in 2015. 

TTNGL is an investment holding company that acquired 39 per cent of the share capital of Phoenix Gas Processors Ltd in September 2013. 

Following an initial public offering in August 2015, 49 per cent of the company is now owned by the public of T&T. State-owned National Gas Company owns 51 per cent of TTNGL. 

The company began trading on the T&T Stock Exchange on 19 October 2015. At the end of the reporting period, TTNGL was trading at a share price of $22.25. transaction, which took place in the second quarter, the UTC said: “UTC Properties Ltd (UPL), is a subsidiary company of the Unit Trust Corporation. It was established years ago to manage the buildings and other properties owned by the corporation.  
 

Banks, Chamber welcome Govt’s signing of IGA

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 00:54

Two banks and one section of the business community yesterday hailed government’s signing of the Model 1A Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) as a positive one.

The agreement, which was signed last Friday at the Ministry of Finance, is expected to improve the exchange of tax information between the US and T&T. This means T&T is one step closer to becoming compliant with Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) which is US legislation ensuring that US citizens earning income outside of the US pay their taxes. In order to have an efficient exchange of information, the infrastructure at Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) has to be changed.

T&T has to become fully compliant by September 30 or implications such as a withholding tax of 30 per cent can implemented by the US on local financial institutions.

In late June, four T&T bankers had expressed concern that the deadline was nearing and T&T had not become compliant with FATCA. Finance Minister Colm Imbert had said the legislation requires a special majority to pass in the Parliament and he planned to meet the Opposition to discuss this as well as the signing of the IGA.

In emailed responses yesterday, managing director, Republic Bank Ltd, Nigel Baptiste said the signing of the IGA was a positive step in the right direction: “I certainly look forward to the successful completion of the remaining steps in the process, which are: the enacting of the relevant legislation and the BIR putting in place the necessary infrastructure to receive and disseminate the information needed by the US authorities.”

Addressing the issue of the deadline to become compliant with FATCA, Baptiste said he is “hopeful” that the legislation and the infrastructure at Board of Inland Revenue would be in place. Adding that the legislation to be enacted in T&T is “not complex” and therefore there should not be any hiccoughs since “the current Opposition (former government) had previously indicated their support for same.”

Baptiste emphasised that the consequences of non-enactment of the legislation as well as failing to put the appropriate systems in place at the BIR are “too severe and as such, non-compliance is not an option.” He also reiterated that this country must, “fulfill its role as a credible member of the international financial community and legislation such as this is now a requirement.”

And JMMB Bank Ltd in emailed responses said it is in support of the IGA and its signing represents “a breakthrough in the relationship between both countries on tax matters, the impact on our corresponding banking relationships in the absence of a signed agreement would be of concern to banks in T&T.” Regarding the supporting legislation for the IGA, the bank said it is hopeful that the supporting legislation would be passed and implemented.

The T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) called for the legislation to be brought to the Parliament to support the IGA. “The T&T Chamber expects the legislation to be in place if the country is expected to remain open for business. Failure to do all that is necessary is not an option.”

Specifically, the TTIC called on both the leaders of government and opposition business in Parliament “to meet, address all concerns and ensure that the Bill is passed with the necessary majority. Additionally, we need to ensure that the BIR is well resourced (human & technologically) to ensure full compliance.”

Anger in the delta keeps much Nigeria oil offline

Sun, 08/21/2016 - 23:40

Oil companies and even Nigerian officials are losing faith in a deal anytime soon with militants who have slashed the nation’s oil output, casting doubt on a production recovery in what is typically Africa’s largest oil exporter.

In the six months since the first major attack on Nigeria’s oil—a sophisticated bombing of the subsea Forcados pipeline—dozens of attacks have pushed outages to more than 700,000 barrels per day (bpd), the highest in seven years.

Talk in the country has shifted from ceasefire optimism, and oil companies’ assurances that repairs were underway, to hedged comments from the government and radio silence from oil majors.

yesterday, the Niger Delta Avengers militants, which have claimed several major pipeline attacks, said in a statement they were ready to give dialogue a chance.

But highlighting the fracturing of militants into small groups, the previous day a group called Niger Delta Green Justice Mandate claimed an attack on a gas pipeline in the southern swamps lands.

Without a unified command and groups dominated by “generals” unable to fully control their own fighters, it is difficult for the government to identify the right people to talk to or enforce any ceasefire.

“People are giving up in the short term,” one oil industry source told Reuters of a resumption in exports of key Nigerian grades such as Forcados or Qua Iboe, adding you “can’t get anything” out of the majors, including Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil or ENI, about when the oil might come back.

Shell declined to comment, while the other companies did not immediately responded to a request for comment.

In June, Nigerian government officials said privately it had a ceasefire with militants. But pessimism crept in, with even Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu telling journalists this week “we are talking but (it) is not an easy thing,” and “we need a ceasefire”—a contrast to the belief that a ceasefire was underway.

He has also said another challenge to brokering a ceasefire is that there were several militant groups to talk to.

The problems reflect deep-seated issues in the Niger Delta, which produces the bulk of oil but whose local communities complain of pollution, a lack of opportunities and what they say is an insufficient share of petro dollars. These problems are compounded by an economic crisis and a government battle with Boko Haram militants in the north.

“This is likely the beginning,” Elizabeth Donnelly, deputy head and research fellow of London think-tank Chatham House's Africa Programme said of the unrest, adding that "the resolution that will come will not come quickly.”

The government this month resumed cash payments to militant groups that it stopped in February, just before the launch of the worst violence since the payments began under a 2009 amnesty. But attacks continued anyway.

The Delta Avengers claimed the bulk of them, announcing strikes on Twitter even before oil majors themselves knew their remote pipelines had been hit. Twitter shut the group’s account, but sources said the Avengers have extensive knowledge of oil sites, and follow the media closely to track companies' actions.

“With the Avengers, you don’t want to say, ‘We’ll be back up next Wednesday,’ because then you’ll get a bomb next Tuesday,” one oil executive said. “They have to be careful.”

But new groups, such as the self-styled Revolution Alliance, which claimed an attack on a Shell-owned oil line, loom, while non-violent local protests have also exacted a toll.

Collings Edema, a local youth leader of the Itsekiri group that has blocked access to Chevron’s Escravos tank farm for almost two weeks, said, “The oil companies have not shown any sign that they are ready to improve our lives.”

Experts warned that as long as people are unhappy, militants and their targets could evolve in unpredictable ways.

“This is also about frustrations of younger people coming up in the Niger Delta and needs not having been addressed,” Donnelly said. “This isn’t just about militancy, though the political and economic context feeds it.”

ANSA McAL jumps $0.69

Sat, 08/20/2016 - 00:20

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 14 securities of which four advanced, one declined and nine traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 158,531 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $989,828.72. JMMB Group was the volume leader with 108,633 shares changing hands for a value of $69,521.99, followed by NCB Jamaica with a volume of 32,301 shares being traded for $85,597.65. ANSA McAL contributed 6,150 shares with a value of $385,555.76, while T&T NGL added 3,357 shares valued at $79,762.32.

ANSA McAL enjoyed the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.69 to end the day at $62.69. Conversely, Massy Holdings suffered the day’s sole decline, falling $0.02 to end the day at $54.96.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the mutual fund market, posting a volume of 23,719 shares valued at $537,321.90. 

Imbert signs agreement to share tax info with US

Sat, 08/20/2016 - 00:19

Finance Minister Colm Imbert and US Ambassador John Estrada yesterday signed an agreement that will pave the way for the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) enacted in the United States of America in 2010.

Imbert signed on behalf of T&T, while Ambassador signed on behalf of the US. 

The agreement they signed was a Model IA Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA), which is designed to improve international tax compliance through mutual assistance in tax matters based on an effective infrastructure for the automatic exchange of information. 

FATCA is part of US federal Law that requires American citizens and residents—both within and outside the US—to report on their non-United States financial accounts.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Finance described the signing of the IGA as “another milestone in the relationship between both countries on tax matters.” The ministry said the signing brought to an end about three years of negotiations between the two countries on the Agreement. 

“The signing is also timely as it was completed before September 30 deadline set for the exchanging of information between both countries.

T&T and the US will now move to bring the IGA into force. This would allow for the automatic exchange of information between both countries and also ensure that foreign financial institutions, including local banks and insurance companies, will not be subject to a 30 per cent withholding tax.

To bring the IGA into force, the Minister of Finance will take to the Parliament, the necessary legislation, among other things, to provide for the automatic exchange of information by the Board of Inland Revenue to the United States Inland Revenue Service.​​

JMMB Group first quarter revenue grows

Fri, 08/19/2016 - 00:37

KINGSTON, Jamaica—The JMMB Group grew its operating revenue by 9.9 per cent, for the first quarter of the 2016/17 financial year ending June 30, moving from J$3.10 billion in the corresponding prior period, to J$3.42 billion. 

The regional financial entity, however, which boasts operations in Jamaica, T&T and Dominican Republic, reported a marginal decline in its net profit of approximately two per cent year-over-year moving from J$602.9 million to J$593.4 million. This was attributable to start-up costs of J$98.28 million and further build-out of its business lines, particularly in the Dominican Republic, to include mutual fund administration and pension fund administration, through JMMB Sociedad Administradora de Fondos de Inversion, SA (JMMB SAFI) and JMMB AFP BDI SA (JMMB AFP), which are in the incubatory stage of operations. 

The group’s operations in that country are now fully bolstered to provide a wider range of services, in line with the group’s integrated financial services model. 

As evidence of this expansion of offerings, JMMB SAFI is set to raise US$3M through its first US$ Real Estate Closed Investment Trust (REIT) Fund between July 31 and August 18, and JMMB SAFI, which received regulatory approval in December 2015, so far, has J$393.02 million in funds under management. 

Additionally, the group’s operational expenses have been impacted by increased staff costs, attributable to the build out of its business model across the subsidiaries in the group. These efforts are expected in the long-term to increase operational efficiency and create greater synergies across the group. 

In addition to the costs associated with the start-up and build out of the business model across the group, asset tax also accounted for J$405.48 million of the J$2.58 billion operating expenses—an increase of J$8 million over the comparative prior period. 

T&T has demonstrated evidence of the group’s growth in revenue, and maximisation of brand synergies, having officially launched the rebranded JMMB Bank (T&T) in May. Operations of subsidiaries in the twin island republic have reported a 32 per cent increase (or J$150 million) in revenue, and continues to build out the integrated financial services model. 

Similarly, Jamaica’s operations continue on a positive trajectory, contributing the lion’s share of the group’s revenue, totaling J$2.53 billion. 

While balancing increased operational expenses, the group’s net interest income grew year-over-year by 7.6 per cent, moving from J$1.44 billion to J$1.55 billion. 

This was attributable to the growth in investment and loan portfolios, while reducing the cost of funds across the territories. In keeping with the strategic objective of increasing the group’s suite of managed funds, across the subsidiaries, fees and commission increased by 56.3 per cent. 

Additionally, foreign exchange margins and cambio trading grew by 72.3 per cent, to J$442.8 million, driven by market opportunity and activity volume. Gains on securities trading, however, declined by eight per cent, relative to the comparative prior period, as a result of the inclusion of the J$500.6 million in one-off gains.

T&T getting first CNG maxi taxi

Fri, 08/19/2016 - 00:36

T&T’s first CNG maxi taxi is expected to make its debut by August 31. It is one of several developments expected over the next few weeks as NGC CNG, a subsidiary of the National Gas Company of T&T Limited, continues efforts to promote use of CNG as a fuel across the country.

NGC CNG president Curtis Mohammed, who recently gave an update on the company’s programme during a CNG Kit Conversion Consultation said “the CNG business was creating approximately $850 million in economic activity, with a significant portion of that sum coming from conversion activity.” 

With 35 PTSC buses already using CNG and with growing support from the Association of Maxi Taxis of T&T (AMTTT), both significant users of diesel fuel, Mohammed said the public transportation industry is becoming a green industry, committed to reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality and the environment. 

In another significanr development, Diamond Motors, a member of the Ansa McAL Group of Companies, will launch the first OEM CNG heavy commercial vehicles in T&T, the Freightliner Truck, on August 26.

Representatives from various regulatory bodies, including the Energy Ministry), Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), T&T Fire Services (TTFS) and National Energy Skills Centre (NESC) made presentations at the CNG Kit Conversion Consultation, giving guidance on requirements for becoming licensed CNG converters. Representatives from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), T&T Bureau of Standards and Town and Country Planning were in attendance.

NGC CNG opened its first new CNG Refuelling Supply Point at St. Christopher's Service Station (SCSS), Wrightson Road, Port of Spain on June 29. Since its opening, the service station’s has seen a steady sales increase. 

Scott Fabres, station operator at St Christopher’s, expressed appreciation for the opportunity to work with NGC CNG in promoting CNG as a more economic and cleaner alternative to conventional liquid fuels. He said he “anticipates a growing demand for CNG vehicles and increase in sales from both businesses and individuals who appreciate the environmental and fuel efficiency benefits of CNG.”

Following the opening of St. Christopher’s, works have been ongoing at another new CNG supply point, Ramco’s Orange Grove Service Station, Tacarigua, as well as on restoration of CNG supply at the NPMC Carrousel Service Station at Naparima Mayaro Road, San Fernando. Both are expected to be opened before the end of September. NGC CNG’s equipment has been installed at both sites

Site visits have been made and works are scheduled to begin by the end of September on refurbishment of the Mt. Lambert Service Station and three new supply points at NP O’Meara, Unipet Santa Flora and NP Starlite.

NFM cautious on Venezuelan market

Fri, 08/19/2016 - 00:35

Venezuela is a potentially lucrative market for T&T manufacturers but CEO of National Flour Mills (NFM) Kelvin Mahabir has concerns about being paid on time for goods supplied to that country.

With T&T set to export its second shipment of goods to the struggling South American nation within the next few weeks, Mahabir told the T&T Guardian that large Venezuelan market of 30.5 million people could boost NFM’s capacity to earn foreign exchange.

However, even with officials from Corporación Venezolana de Comercio Exterior (Corpovex) expected in the country later this month to negotiate for another shipment of goods, he has concerns.

“The main problem in trading with Venezuela has always been the difficulty in getting paid. The manufacturers in Trinidad through the TTMA are awaiting the arrival of the officials from Corpovex to make arrangements for the next shipments. This is expected to happen next week,” he said.

In June, rice, frozen chicken, ketchup, powdered milk, mayonnaise and pasta totalling 68 tons was shipped to Venezuela . These products came from local manufacturers Arawak and Company Limited, Vemco Limited, and Trinidad Parboil Limited/Old Mac Agro Supplies Limited and was followed days later by a shipment of products from John Dickinson and Co (WI) Limited; National Canners Limited, NFM and Coconut Growers Association Limited.

This followed signing of an agreement between the manufacturers and Corpovex to supply the items to Venezuela through a US$50 million revolving fund. The agreement covers an initial three-month period and $26.9 million dollars worth of food and basic household items have already been shipped to eastern Venezuela.

Mahabir said there are no plans for NFM set up operations in Venezuela, although he acknowleges he potential of that market for the company.

“The potential of the market due to the current shortages is unknown but significant. However, this may change in the future as their production facilities improve and go back into full operation.”

NFM’s contribution to the first shipments to Venezuela was two container loads of goods.

Venezuela, T&T closest South American neighbour, has been devastated by declining oil prices. The country depends on oil revenues for more than 95 per cent of its foreign income and its reserves have dwindled to US$20 billion in recent months. Annual inflation is estimated at 141.5 percent— double the 2014 rate—and food costs rose 254.3 per ent last year, surpassing wage increases.

In another nearby market, Mahabir said NFM is awaiting licence approvals to move some of its products into Jamaica.

“We recently obtained approval for our tilapia feed and are awaiting approval for our pet food product,” he said.

CFTDI works with Caricom neighbours

Thu, 08/18/2016 - 01:18

The Caribbean Fisheries Training and Development Institute (CFTDI) has assisted its Caricom neighbours by providing relevant training to students and active seafarers.

One such beneficiary is the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic Institute (SJPP) in Barbados. 

SJPP principal Hector Belle said: “All of SJPI’s curricula has been developed through a process which requires a critical input of the relevant industry. In the development of the curricula, an industry advisory committee was formed to provide guidance with regards to the content, standards, human and physical resources required to deliver an effective and relevant maritime programme.”

The SJPP is a community-oriented technical vocational and training post-secondary institution with a mission to satisfy the needs of people through provision of a rich and diversified curricula that emphasise career education and training. 

“Based on this structure, the SJPP remains committed to maintaining a curriculum which can respond to social changes, as well as development in industrial sectors” said Belle.

Because of its evolving vision, the institution is committed to equipping students of its Maritime Operations programme with best practices in the industry, hence its collaboration with the CFTDI solidified by a memorandum of understanding. 

This arrangement ensures that the SJPP meets standards set by the International Marine Organization Convention on Standards for Training Certification and Watchkeeping for seafarers 

It is against this background, that CFTDI as an approved training institute, provides training for the SJPP, and for private sector companies such as Barbados Port Inc. 

This initiative has produced some excellent benefits for the institution, particularly in meeting quality assurance standards in training assessment and the awarding of international certification to graduates.

With the evolution currently taking place in the maritime industry, the relationship between the CFTDI and SJPP will be strengthened in the not-too-distant future, as CFTDI is expected to evaluate the institution’s current curricula to determine areas for greater co-operation to meet the regional needs of the industry.

Trade ministry developing quality policy

Thu, 08/18/2016 - 01:17

Government is developing a policy for quality standards in the non-energy manufacturing sector to increase its global competitiveness.

In a statement this week, the Ministry of Trade said the National Quality Policy (NQP) is expected to enhance trade facilitation and market access, creating and sustaining a more enabling environment to facilitate increased global competitiveness.

It said the NQP is “a step in the right direction” and the objective is to establish an appropriate framework for the development of a National Quality Infrastructure (NQI).

“It is an important element in the framework required to build a more diversified economy and improve the economic outlook for the nation,” the ministry said.

“Internationally, the quality infrastructure is recognised as a critical support mechanism for social progress and economic development, enabling the participation of developing countries in international trade. This requirement has been recognised in the past by businesses faced with challenges in meeting stringent quality standards abroad and in competing with poor-quality imported products on the local market.”

The NQI institutional framework is required to establish and implement standardisation, metrology, scientific, industrial and legal, accreditation and conformity assessment services including inspection, testing and product and system certification necessary to provide acceptable evidence and verification that products and services meet defined requirements.

The Standards Act 1997 mandates the T&T Bureau of Standards (TTBS) to establish a National Quality System. 

It is a mechanism that can assist in creating greater cohesion in the quality infrastructure for greater overall effectiveness for the benefit of the country, the ministry said.

Massy profit declines in third quarter

Wed, 08/17/2016 - 00:06

Increases in the Green Fund Levy and Business Levy, which contributed to an increase in the effective tax rate for Massy Holdings Limited, were among the factors blamed for a six per cent decline in the group’s third quarter profit after tax. 

The group’s unconsolidated financial statement for the quarter ended June 30 show that the profit was down from $416 million to $389 million, while earnings per share declined by seven per cent from $3.95 to $3.68.

According to chairman Robert Bermudez, other factors that affected the group’s financial performance included a higher effective tax rate from profits from overseas and the inability to use some losses for tax relief.

Massy’s third-party revenue through the end of the third quarter was $8.7 billion compared with $8 billion over the same period in 2016.

“The group’s profit from its territories outside of Trinidad and Tobago before head office charges increased by 15 per cent above 2015,” Bermudez said.

“In Trinidad and Tobago, contraction in the energy sector and the weakening of consumer demand led to a 25 per cent decline in profit from operations. 

However, 53 per cent of the profit before tax decline from Trinidad and Tobago is attributable to a one-off expense for a maintenance charge for the joint venture air separation plant in Point Lisas and the start-up costs of the internet and TV business.”

He said the group’s growth initiatives are “progressing well,” with construction of the Methanol and DME plant continuing on schedule.

“Prior to issuing this statement, all agreements required for draw-down on the loan from Japan Bank of International Co-operation were signed and sponsors’ equity injections will be supplemented by lenders funds going forward,” he said.

Bermudez said the group is managing foreign exchange availability “through intense efforts and has been meeting all of its foreign exchange requirements through a combination of strategies.”

Group debt was $2.2 billion comprising mainly TT-dollar long-term debt of $1.8 billion, while gearing improved from 33.3 per cent to 32.4 per cent and cash balance peaked at $1.85 billion.

“With healthy cash flow generation from operations, the group is in an excellent position to continue to fund its growth initiatives. However, the group enjoyed a number of one-off gains in the fourth quarter of 2015, which the group does not expect in 2016,” he said.

SOS from Cedros fishermen

Wed, 08/17/2016 - 00:03

Declining fish sales over the past few weeks have left Cedros fishermen and their families reeling as they struggle to find ways to support themselves. 

For decades, residents in the quiet seaside village of Cedros have made their living by catching and selling fish. The fishermen say following recent statements by Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) president Gary Aboud about fish in the Gulf of Paria being unsafe for human consumption, sales have dried up completely.

At a press conference at the Cedros Community Centre yesterday, president of the Bamboo/Bonified Fishing Association, Anthony Ganness said: “This is an emergency, it’s an SOS. What we are seeing now is widespread poverty. To use a stronger word, sufferation has started amongst the fishermen because we are unable to feed our families. 

“Ever since that statement was released, our catch is not being purchased. What can we do? Our goods are perishable once taken out of the water and the lifeline of our community depends on what we take out of these waters.”

Ganness said there has been a noticeable lack of government intervention in the area. 

“We sit here this morning and it is sad, where is our Member of Parliament? Where is our local government representative? Where is our Agriculture Minister? No one has come to see what is really happening in Cedros, how are these people really making out from day-to-day. We are on the brink of a new school term opening, how are these people managing? Where are the social services?”

Ganness called on the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri) to reveal the parameters of their testing and questioned the credibility of results released by FFOS. 

“I have no faith in some of these testing,” he said. “What are their sources for testing? Who are the people doing the testing? Where did they take the sample of the fish from?”

Public relations officer of Cedros Fisherfolk United Dr Raphael Sebastian wants Carrir officials to come to Cedros to test live fishes. 

“Let the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) come to Cedros and do their tests as well,” he said.

Agostini’s reports higher sales of $1.8b

Tue, 08/16/2016 - 00:34

The Agostini Group’s sales of $1.8 billion were 60 per cent higher than the comparable period of 2015 as they included 100 per cent of the sales from its Caribbean Distribution Partners Limited joint venture.

Third-quarter results showed profit attributable to shareholders of $63.8 million for the nine months ended June 30—3.5 per cent higher than for the comparable period in last year. 

The results include a credit of $9.1 million for a Housing Development Corporation (HDC) arbitration matter which was determined in Agostini’s favour. The full settlement will be brought to account when they receive the balance of the legal costs and interest claims. Earnings per share were $1.09 compared with $1.05 in the prior year.

Chairman Joseph Esau said Agostini’s pharmaceutical and personal care sector continued to perform well although Smith Robertson was affected by reduced Government purchases of pharmaceuticals. Their joint venture, Caribbean Distribution Partners, has generally performed well. Challenges in some islands are being addressed and continued improvement is expected in the medium to long term.

In the industrial, construction and holdings sector, Agostini’s operating companies were slightly down on the prior year, reflecting the effects of low activity in the energy and construction sectors.

Esau said he expected the T&T economy to remain depressed but the group’s full year results would be marginally above those achieved in the previous year

In July 2015, Agostini’s entered into a joint venture with Goddard Enterprises Limited of Barbados, and formed Caribbean Distribution Partners Ltd. 

Into this company Agostini’s and Goddardft5 transferred their holdings in their fast moving consumer goods companies. The group’s turnover has grown steadily and was $1.7 billion in 2015, with profit attributable to shareholders of $80.6 million.

US$200m plyboard factory for La Brea

Tue, 08/16/2016 - 00:31

In the face of rising unemployment in La Brea, Chemtech Limited is getting ready to start construction of a US$200 million plyboard factory at Union Estate. 

Consultant Deosaran Jagroo said the project would provide 750 jobs during the construction phase and 285 permanent jobs for residents of the area.

The factory will produce fertilizers, plastic resins, roof tiles, veneer board and oriented strand board using melamine, formaldehyde, methanol and lumber from Suriname. Funding has been secured from an international lender, Jagroo said. 

He said Chemtech had already signed a memorandum of understanding with Industrial Development Corporation Suriname for the supply of raw material.

“We are on the verge of completing financial negotiations and we should be on the ground at the end of the month. We met with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and he is eager for this project,” Jagroo added. 

He said engineering and technology had been identified along with equipment suppliers. The Environmental Management Authority has granted a Certificate of Environmental Clearance, the Town and Country Planning Division has given outline approvals, while a commercial feasibility report has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCooper. 

Noting that methanol had never been fully utilised for downstream activities in T&T, Jagroo said: “We plan to take the methanol and produce synthetic resins for plastics, roof tiles and adhesives. We will also produce fertilizer. “We make urea here and export it at eight cents per pound. In the US they purchase our urea and then make fertilzers and sell it back to us for $8 a pound. If we get this plant up and running we will cut the cost of fertilzers by half.”

He said Chemtech had already spent US$1 million to get the best consultants to evaluate the project and agreements hadbeen finalised to distribute the products in the United States, Europe, South Africa, India, China, Middle East and Mexico.

La Brea resident Michael Griffith said the new factory would bring relief to the community. 

“This project will do this community good because apart from giving us jobs we will also get economical housing,” he said, adding that plyboard would be much cheaper than what is currently being imported.

IICA hosts workshop on food safety

Mon, 08/15/2016 - 00:00

Food manufacturers from several Caricom countries recently gathered at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre for two days of food safety training to help them access major export markets. 

The sub-regional workshop on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) Plan Development and Implementation was attended by private sector participants from Guyana, Haiti, Suriname and T&T. 

Course co-ordinator, microbiologist Dr Melinda Hayman, said participants gained an understanding of how to implement a HACCP plan, which is internationally accepted as the best means of ensuring food safety. 

Gregg Rawlins, IICA representative in T&T, said the low level of compliance with food safety regulations and other SPS standards presents a challenge for Cariforum exporters of agri-food products. 

“All countries must comply with SPS measures in order to successfully export their products to international markets. 

“Therefore, companies involved in the manufacturing, processing or handling of food products should adopt this system to minimise or eliminate food safety hazards in their product.” Rawlins urged participants to use the training to strengthen their food safety systems. 

“This is one sure way of meeting food safety standards in your own country which will then pave the way for exporting to regional and international markets,” he said. 

Richard Trotman, managing director of Trinidad Chocolate Factory Limited which produces a range of fine cocoa and chocolate products, said his company aspires to the highest standards and has already engaged a HACCP consultant. 

“People are trusting us that what they put in their mouths is safe. So we want our product to be enjoyed and to be safe, for the local public as well as international consumers,” he said.

CEO of the T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) Dr Ramesh Ramdeen noted the coss of implementing systems such as HACCP, but predicted that they could be recouped by increased market share. He said food safety issues could occur anywhere along the supply chain. 

“You want to ensure that you do everything possible so when that product leaves your factory gate, it’s optimal,” said Ramdeen, noting that product recalls are expensive and damaging. 

The HACCP system originated in the aerospace industry in the 1960s when NASA was conducting research on minimising pathogens and biological toxins in space foods. 

Putting a good HACCP plan in place doesn’t mean abandoning quality assurance protocols that a company might already have in place, but often requires a revision of the procedures and their appropriate integration into a HACCP plan. 

TDC focuses on conventions

Sun, 08/14/2016 - 23:57

The T&T Convention Bureau (TTCB), a unit of the Tourism Development Company (TDC), will host a Convention Bureau Business Forum on Friday at the Banquet & Conference Centre at MovieTowne, Port-of-Spain.

As the TDC focuses on the development of the MICE (Meetings, Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions) niche, the business forum is intended to lift the profile of the Convention Bureau by raising awareness about its role and complimentary services. 

It will be attended by representatives of the business community and professional bodies and will showcase how TTCB can add value to an association’s conference and demonstrate the possible economic impact for T&T. 

The forum’s keynote speaker is Connie Kinnard, vice president, Multiculturalism Tourism & Development at the Greater Miami CVB. 

Looking forward to the event, Kinnard, a renowned industry expert from an international convention bureau said: “I am excited to share some of my experiences in the hospitality industry and particularly my efforts in showcasing and promoting a destination’s multicultural heritage. 

“This is my first visit to Trinidad and I look forward to experiencing the food, music and the unique culture that the island offers.” 

Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe will deliver the feature address at the forum. 

Amid forex challenges $21.2m profit for NFM

Sun, 08/14/2016 - 23:53

Although the foreign exchange supply continues to be a challenge for National Flour Mills (NFM) the company reported net profit after tax of $21.2 million for the six months ended June 30. This is a three per cent increase over the corresponding period in 2015. 

Chairman Nigel Romano said the company achieved an increase in profit “despite a three per cent decline in revenue, indicative of the continued contraction of demand in the local economy.”

The company moved from a loss-making cash position in June 2015 to earn $124.5 million in cash and cash equivalents this year. Total assets increased from $379.2 million in June 2015 to $470.2 million.

Romano said the company’s gross profit position improved for 2016. 

“Cost containment measures, including management of the mix of raw materials and insurance premiums which favourably impacted cost of sales, resulted in a 22 per cent improvement in gross profit,” he said.

However, NFM’s administrative expenses increased by 17 per cent “due to system and process upgrades amid at increasing productivity and improving inventory management.”

The supply of foreign exchange and depreciating rate are two main challenges for the company, Romano said, as it uses foreign currency to purchase raw materials and to settle foreign supplier commitments.

“Foreign currency availability, coupled with the cost implications of the deteriorating exchange rate, represents the single greatest challenge to our positive outlook for 2016, always keeping in mind the goal of delivering value for our clients, security for our workforce and sustainable profitability for our investors,” he said.

Priority areas for the company include looking at growth in regional and extra-regional markets and moving toward more local content as it seeks to increase sales revenues and mitigate its foreign exchange challenges, the chairman said.

Tourism Secretary: Fill more seats to Tobago

Sun, 08/14/2016 - 23:49

Secretary of Tourism and Transportation in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Tracy Davidson-Celestine has described the recently ended 2015-2016 cruise ship season as one of the best in the island’s history, bringing ashore roughly 106,000 people.

She said Condor Airlines flights out from Manchester, England and Munich, Germany, scheduled to begin in the coming European winter season from November 1 will an additional 14,500 seats to the island.

Davidson-Celestine,  speaking at a post Executive Council media briefing at the Administrative Complex, Calder Hall, said there will be two direct weekly flights out of Munich with a winter rotation of 25, providing a capacity of 6,125 seats for the season. The flight from Manchester, with a larger aircraft, will do 26 rotations with a capacity of 8,450 seats.

“If we can sell half of those seats we can see a 25 per cent increase in arrivals this year but we have to do the hard work and sell the seats. As we say, tourism is all ah we ting  and therefore we have to all put our hands on deck and ensure this winter period is an improvement on last winter,” she said.

Davidson-Celestine said a marketing campaign is currently being conducted by Condor for the Munich flight. It includes an online newsletter for consumers and trade partners, an in-flight video, and a magazine feature on flights, as well as advertising in and around train and bus stops and online banners with Condor’s preferred partners.

She urged Tobago hotels, tour operators, bed and breakfast owners and the airline to work to fill those seats. 

“We are doing our part. We have brought the flights here, we are putting marketing behind those flights, but the point I want to share is that we are all in this together,” she said.

Scotia wins sixth consecutive Digital Bank Award

Sun, 08/14/2016 - 23:46

Scotiabank has been recognised by Global Finance Magazine as the Best Digital Bank in T&T for 2016. 

This is the sixth consecutive year this prestigious title has been bestowed upon the bank.  In total, Scotiabank received recognition in 23 countries including Canada and countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Scotiabank also won in two international regional subcategories: Best Integrated Consumer Bank Site and Best Mobile Banking App.

“We are very proud to have been recognised by Global Finance for the digital solutions we offer to our customers across the Caribbean, Latin America and Canada,” said Ignacio (Nacho) Deschamps, Group Head, International Banking and Digital Transformation.

“At Scotiabank, one of our top priorities is to make it easier for customers to do business with us by becoming the leading digital bank in the markets where we operate.”

Young bankers warned to avoid fraud

Sun, 08/14/2016 - 23:46

Local banks continue to wrestle with excess liquidity and the overall slowdown in borrowing by the business sector even with interest rates at all-time lows, says Nigel Baptiste, managing director at Republic Bank Limited.

Speaking at the 2016 Graduation Ceremony of  the Institute of Banking and Finance of T&T at the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Westmoorings, he said: “We grapple with a changing customer demographic, high staff turnover across the industry and greater opportunities for fraud and money laundering from an increasingly interconnected world. Why am I telling you all of this? 

“The qualifications in banking and finance you are obtaining will certainly not make you an instant expert to tackle challenges in the financial services sector. The qualifications in banking and finance you are obtaining today give you a unique opportunity to further prove yourself within whatever organisation or team to which your belong. 

“These qualifications mean that you are better equipped to play your part of an overall team. These qualifications mean that you are well on your way.” Baptiste  told graduates of the programme while hard work and determination might get them to the top, integrity would keep them there. 

“Never compromise your personal integrity to make a dollar, or even a billion. The world’s news always seems to be filled with another story of a banker of a financial organisation that sought to cut corners and act dishonestly. 

“I don’t have to tell you how much of society is keyed-in to our sector but I do want to tell you that with every accomplishment you attain, you are doing your part in telling the story that bankers are not dishonest,” Baptiste said.

He said T&T had numerous vulnerabilities in its financial system, including a heavy dependence on the energy sector, high level of household indebtedness and historically low domestic interest rates.

“In any bank, any organisation, there are always those who are solely focused on the short-term gain—the biggest bonus and the flashy exciting job title—which may be fine but as you continue to navigate the ups and down of your career paths in pursuit of long-term goals, the hard truth remains you have to continue to work hard so you can continue to stand out. 

“And, you need to be patient and wait for the opportunities to arise. Hard work and patience paved the road for my bosses to first notice and then, subsequently, believe in me. Over time, as all the things I had learned previously in class came into play, I continued learning and working hard at my job. And that included aspects that I had never thought of before; things like learning how to be absolutely comfortable managing people, who were older than I am.”

Baptiste said he had learned that the best ideas never came from operating alone in a silo or  from the management team operating alone but from a team working together. 

“In short, the more I knew, the more I knew I had to know. Through that thinking, I learned about innovation. I learned how to successfully challenge paradigms. I learned how to make presentations, drive hard negotiations and close a deal. I learned how to speak the language of leaders and that language is surprisingly simple as you yourselves will one day discover. 

“It doesn’t matter in what capacity you serve, your serve the customer. They have placed trust in us and we must always do our best to never let them down. They may never stop saying that we are ‘ol tiefs’, but let us continue to do our very best, to never give them reason to say more, and worse,” he said.

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