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Govt to sell CLICO assets

...Move to recoup bailout $$

By Carla Bridglal carla.bridglal@trinidadexpress.com

Selling key CLICO assets, including Jamaica-based wine and spirit company Lascelles de Mercado, is how the Government plans to recoup some of the almost $20 billion it spent bailing out the company, Finance Minister Larry Howai said yesterday.

The Lascelles de Mercado sale, he said, should be completed in a couple weeks.

The arbitration of Methanol Holdings (Trinidad) Ltd (MTHL), another major asset, should also be determined by the end of December, he said, so by the end of January the Government will be in a better position having realised some recoupment of assets to work out a restructuring plan for the company.

Howai added that the shareholders agreement signed between CLICO and the Government in June 2009 has been extended a further six months.

The agreement was due to expire on December 12, but Howai, speaking at a function to mark the official opening of RBC Caribbean's Operations Centre on London Street, Port of Spain, said that over the last week, the ministry had been negotiating an extension with the CL Financial Group in order to allow (him) the required time to facilitate a phased recoup of the almost $20 billion in taxpayers' money spent to bail out the company.

"This extension will allow for a smoother transition that will not cause any disruption to the local economy... the purpose of the six months is to give us time to plan the restructuring," he said.

This is the second time the agreement will have been extended, having already passed the original three-year deadline of June 2012.

The Shareholders Agreement, which was signed on June 12, 2009, succeeded the Memorandum of Understanding of January 30, 2009 signed between the Government, CLF and the Central Bank, allowing the Government to have controlling interest of the CL Financial board.

Howai said the Government had employed Ernst and Young, along with several international experts in restructuring and law to work out the detail of a plan.

He added that despite suppositions otherwise, it was unlikely CLF would revert to the control of its former handlers, particularly former CEO Lawrence Duprey, based on the net assets of the company and the amount of money the government has had to spend.

To avoid another "debacle" like Clico, Howai also pointed out the government plans to table or pass some significant regulatory legislation in Parliament over the next year, including the Securities Industries Act, which it hopes to pass in a few weeks; the Insurance Act, to be tabled early next year; the Credit Union Act in the middle of next year; and the Occupational Pensions Bill targeted for the end of next year.

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