Caricel refutes delinquency claims

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

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THE management of Jamaican-owned telecommunications company, Caricel has refuted allegations of its delinquency in providing information about the proposed new majority share owners, South African firm Involution Limited.

Commenting on the issue in a release Monday, Caricel's CEO, Lowell Lawrence said the company and its new shareholder, Involution Limited, “categorically rejected any allegation that the legal and regulatory formalities were not observed, with regards to the transfer of shares”.

“All necessary information was provided in a timely manner to the relevant authorities, and we have been more than accommodating of all government bodies seeking clarity on this matter,” Lawrence said in the release from the company.

Caricel said that speculation regarding whether Involution has met all the requirements and stipulations of Cabinet “is both misplaced and premature”.

“The company is reminding the public and its customers that Caricel's licence obligations are no different from those of its competitors. There are no licence conditions that bind a shareholder, and shareholders with an interest of 10 per cent or more are only required to be fit and proper to participate in ownership of the licensed operations. It is this approval that is being awaited from the minister,” the release stated.

It added: “Shareholders who are approved as fit and proper at the time a licence is granted can become disqualified at a later date and replaced, without affecting the legitimacy of the operations. Shareholders can die, or in the case of corporate shareholders, extensive reorganisation of their affairs can result in changes, which the regulators should monitor and address.

“Such changes do not operate to affect the licence under the Telecommunications Act, and it is irresponsible for any regulator, or commentator, to suggest a new set of rules for Caricel.

“The minister has correctly stated that there was no transaction for which his approval was required. He is correct, because there was no assignment, or transfer of control of the licence or the operations of the company. This will not be done until the minister confirms that the new shareholder is fit and proper. In the exercise of his statutory duties, the minister continues to be bound by the principles of fairness and natural justice, and we are confident that he will remain true to those principles.”

In early February, Caricel's owners, Symbiote Investments, announced that they had sold controlling interest to Involution Limited. Two weeks later, Contractor General Dirk Harrison called for a detailed review of the new owners. He argued that Caricel had made “intentional variations” to the names of shareholders, and that to transfer or change directors, Caricel must get the approval of the minister of science, energy and technology.

He also questioned whether Involution had complied with all the obligations and requirements imposed in 2016.

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley says that the issues raised by Harrison had been referred to the Office of Utilities Regulation after Caricel disclosed to him its intention to sell its majority shares to Involution.

Caricel, which provides LTE broadband mobile data services, faced strong opposition to its entrance into the mobile networks services sector in March 2014, as the first Jamaican-owned network.

Despite a change in Government in 2016, however, the network was approved for a new mobile licence in May that year. But, the contractor general objected to the licensing and, after a probe into Caricel operations, submitted concerns about the ownership of the company.

Caricel later rolled out its LTE-only network within the Kingston Metropolitan Area (Kingston, St Andrew and Portmore).

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