Cable & Wireless seeks to ease anxiety among Flow staff

Acquisition will make companies stronger, says Columbus

Thursday, November 06, 2014

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CABLE and Wireless Communications Plc (CWC) yesterday said it hoped its acquisition of Columbus Communications International will be finalised by the first quarter of next year and sought to ease anxiety among Flow Jamaica staff about the future of their employment.

"We do know that change comes with some degree of anxiety, and we wish to encourage our teams on both sides to continue with business as usual," CWC’s Global Director of Communications and Culture Grace Silvera said in response to e-mailed questions from the Jamaica Observer.

"At this time we have not made any decisions around people as a result of the proposed merger. When decisions become clear, we will communicate with everyone in a timely manner and also ensure that we remain transparent and respectful throughout the process," Silvera added.

Yesterday, nervous staff at Flow Jamaica offices in the Corporate Area admitted that they were worried about their future after CWC, LIME Jamaica’s parent company, announced that it had reached a conditional agreement to acquire Columbus, Flow’s parent company, for US$3.025 billion.

"Well, this has come as a shock to us and all we can do is wait and see and keep our fingers crossed that this will not affect our jobs," said one employee.

He and his co-workers shared their thoughts on the development, but asked not to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

"When we see this happen, the first thing that comes to mind is what will become of our jobs, but all we can do is wait," said another employee at the New Kingston branch of the company. Said another employee at the Flow Half-Way-Tree branch: "We received an e-mail about the development and, naturally, it has left us worried about our future."

News of the acquisition triggered a swift response from LIME Jamaica’s telecoms rival Digicel, which said it was "concerned about the clear and obvious challenges and potential issues posed by such a proposed move from a regulatory and competition perspective".

Digicel pointed out that the proposed acquisition will require regulatory approvals from a number of bodies in the region as well as approvals from certain antitrust agencies.

"Digicel looks forward to being provided with further details of the proposed transaction so as to allow it to make considered submissions to those bodies as is appropriate and necessary," the company said. Yesterday, Silvera said that the discussions between CWC and Columbus "have been ongoing over the past few months".

CWC, in its news release on the development, said that the combined business will: • Deliver broader proconsumer product offerings and improved services; • Inject state-of-the-art TV and next-generation superhigh- speed broadband technology into CWC; • Deliver huge opportunities to the business and government sectors; and • Provide rapid lead in fixed mobile convergence through [a] premier network platform.

"The combination of the two companies is consistent with global industry trends, where convergence of fixed and mobile networks, increasing content consumption growth, and continuing development of online applications are driving requirements for high bandwidth, fixed-line networks and TV capabilities," CWC said.

The company pointed out that operators in Europe and North America, as well as regional competitors, are acquiring and constructing networks that are capable of supporting ever-growing data needs along with new video capabilities.

"This is a transaction that transforms CWC, providing a step-change in growth and returns," CWC’s Chief Executive Officer Phil Bentley was quoted in the news release. He said that the combination of both companies’ resources will "create the best-in-class quadplay offering in the region, delivered on a superior mobile, fibre and subsea network".

Added Bentley: "This is a significant opportunity to better serve our customers and improve the ICT infrastructure of the communities in which we operate, whilst accelerating our strategy and delivering materially enhanced returns and synergy benefits." Columbus Chairman and CEO Brendan Paddick concurred.

"Together we will form a truly world-class company focused on our customers in the Caribbean, Central America and the Andean regions," he was quoted as saying. "The proposed acquisition makes both companies stronger, faster and smarter in competing with their larger competitors.

The proposed transaction reinforces our commitment to transform connectivity in the region, to increase the attractiveness of the region to investors, to support the growth of the communities we serve by making them more globally accessible and to ensure that our customers always have access to the best products and services available."

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