Lee-Chin offers GHL shares to staff in Jamaica

Consultations now taking place to get the ball rolling

BY DURRANT PATE
Observer business writer

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

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Having secured majority interest in insurance conglomerate, Guardian Holdings Limited (GHL), Jamaican/Canadian billionaire Michael Lee-Chin is mooting offering shares in the company to staff, particular to sales staff, as part of an impromptu deal struck on Monday.

The deal was struck as Lee-Chin addressed a Guardian Life Special Sales Force Meeting at AC Marriot Hotel, Lady Musgrave Road, near New Kingston, where the large gathering of sales staff from across the island bought into his deal for them to attain a 50 per cent increase in gross premium income to grow the company locally.

“I will to do everything in my power to make that happen,” he promised, and mooted offering shares to the staff in the new-look GHL.

National Commercial Bank (NCB) Group, which is chaired by the 68-year-old billionaire, recently acquired 62 per cent majority shares in the Trinidad-based GHL, which is the parent company of Guardian Life Insurance Company. Lee-Chin has mandated Guardian Life president, Eric Hosin and his management team to work out the mechanics to make possible for staff to purchase shares.

Lee-Chin encouraged staff to “buy now”, while making the point that they could be acquiring shares in GHL at a much lower price than he got for NCB earlier this year.

Five months ago NCB completed the purchase of an additional 74.24 million ordinary shares in GHL at an enhanced price of US$2.79 per share.

That enhanced price came in at $0.44 higher than the Jamaican bank's initial offer, aimed at settling a dispute over pricing with minority owners.

Based on current estimates the shares are now worth TT$18.35, which is converted to US$2.70.

NCB first acquired a 29.99 per cent stake in Guardian in 2016 from key shareholders such as Arthur Lok Jack and Imtiaz Ahamad in May 2016. Lee-Chin encouraged the Guardian Life sales staff to replicate the example of NCB, which he acquired in 2002 and has made into the biggest and most profitable bank in Jamaica.

He drew an example of the success an investor would have had if that individual invested US$100,000 in NCB in 2002. “That investment would be worth today US$3 million,” Lee-Chin stated.

He argued “if the investment was made on New York Exchange Standard Motor Products (SMP) stock in 2002, today it would be worth US$320,000; it you had invested in Morgan Stanley, the return would be US$420,000 today; while the said investment in Berkshire Hathaway would now be valued at US$$422,000.“.

Lee-Chin encouraged Guardian Life staff, “make sure this company replicates what NCB did, and it will start here with you and it will start here with sales. It will start with the products you sell, training, expectation...I am willing to do what is needed because I have money on the line, so by now your goal is to increase gross premiums by 50 per cent”.

When questioned by the Business Observer whether the share offer to staff would be done by way of a cross listing of the shares on the Jamaica Stock Exchange or by way of an employee share ownership programme (ESOP), Hosin conceded that he had just been made aware of this intent having spoken earlier to Lee-Chin. He pointed out that Lee-Chin advised that he would be speaking with the other principals in GHL to get the ball rolling.

At present, GHL shares are not traded on the Jamaica Stock Exchange but on the Trinidad Stock Exchange.


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