OWTU president-general Ancel Roget addresses the media during a press conference at the OWTU's headquarters at Paramount Building, San Fernando, on Sunday.

The Government is being asked to allow Patriotic Energies and Technologies Limited’s proposal to be independently evaluated again before considering other options for the sale of Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery.

The request was made by Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president-general Ancel Roget at a press conference at the union’s San Fernando yesterday, in response to Government’s rejection of Patriotic’s September 29 proposal.

During a virtual press conference on Saturday, Energy and Energy Minister Franklin Khan said Patriotic’s final proposal failed to address the three key issues concerning the acquisition. He said issues were purchase price financing, restart financing and first priority lien on the assets. Khan said the Government was committed to restarting the refinery with private capital injection.

However, Roget yesterday said they were surprised by Khan’s statements, as Patriotic’s proposal had addressed the key issues and they had also offered an upfront cash payment.

While they were concerned by Khan’s statement that Government was now considering its options, Roget said he felt the ministerial team did not give themselves time to properly review their proposal, noting it was a complex document.

As such, he requested that the proposal be put before the same Cabinet-appointed evaluation committee that initially reviewed the union’s submissions to the ten-point condition (for the sale of the refinery) set out by the Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

“We are concerned but at the same time our request this morning is for the Government, in the interest of the country of Trinidad and Tobago, to stay their hands but at the same time give an opportunity for this latest proposal, which is in line with the minister’s offer, which seeks to get over the hurdle of the stumbling block that they have, allow for that to be properly evaluated,” Roget said.

Describing the acquisition process as long and prolonged, he said the union has paid tens of millions of dollars to produce the required documents, including a comprehensive business plan, detailed market studies, which has information about new markets that Petrotrin never explored, detailed feasibility studies and all Patriotic’s technical knowledge. He said he was now concerned that all these documents were in the Trinidad Petroleum Holding Ltd (TPHL) team and board’s possession.

Giving a chronological timeline of the events in their quest to acquire the refinery, he said, “On November 14, 2019, the Minister of Finance publicly announced that Patriotic met all the ten conditions, of which restart financing was number one, and therefore it is clear that that dealt with Minister Khan’s issue of restart financing.

“And I want to say at this point, that we recommitted and we stated in writing in our proposal that we deliver on the 29th on the issue of restart financing. Therefore, in our respectful view that would have dealt with the number two-point, of restart financing.”

He said it was only on July 17 that Patriotic was first alerted that TPHL had major difficulties overcoming some internal financing issues relating to the deal offer made to Patriotic by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on September 20. This offer included a three-year moratorium, ten years to pay the purchase price at a fair market value interest rate and a ten-point condition to be answered in one month. He said they received documentation on TPHL’s financial challenges on September 11, adding Patriotic was never officially advised of the October 31 deadline.

Despite their requests for a meeting, he said it was only on October 21 that the ministerial team met with Patriotic to discuss the challenges.

“Patriotic have suggestions as to how they could overcome this major challenge but was informed that they would have difficulties with those suggestions,” Roget said.

Based on that and the fact that TPHL’s challenges affected Imbert’s offer, he said Patriotic held discussions with their international partners and adjusted their proposal.

“And after just six working days, we would have come back with an upfront cash proposal supported by a letter from one of the top ten world investment banks signed off by three of their global heads.”

He recalled that the union had initially offered a US$77 million upfront cash payment but accepted the offer made by the minister.

“This is not just for OWTU, this is not just for Patriotic, this is for Trinidad and Tobago and therefore ours is a firm commitment, reaffirmed on many occasions, to do all that is humanly possible and necessary to ensure that those assets remain in the hands of local Trinbagonians,” Roget said.

Roget said their proposal would have addressed all of the issues but he felt that given the deadline set by the Prime Minister, the ministerial team would not have “afforded themselves enough time to go through in a comprehensive way” all issues and tenants of the latest proposal.