We have nothing to add
Barita pleased with TT finance minister's defence of its transactions and reputationFriday, October 22, 2021
Barita Investments yesterday declined a fulsome response to issues raised in the Trinidad and Tobago Senate about certain transactions involving its parent company Cornerstone Financial Holdings and Port-of-Spain-based First Citizens Bank, despite promising to do so.
The company, instead, through one of its directors, made it clear that, since Trinidad and Tobago's Finance Minister Colm Imbert dealt with the matter “so complete and emphatic and accurate” in the Senate on Wednesday, “we really have nothing to add”.
The director, who said he was not involved in public relations for Barita Investments, told the Jamaica Observer that the company was unaware that Imbert would have addressed the matter, but added, “We were pleased with the comments by the minister, especially with regards to Barita, because they were important comments, they were accurate comments, which really support the continued development of our company in Jamaica and the Caribbean, and so we really have nothing further to add, it wouldn't be of any value.”
Barita Investments took the position after Imbert stopped just short of being disparaging towards his Opposition Senate colleague, Wade Mark, while responding to Mark's call on Monday for a “forensic audit to be conducted” into the relationship between Cornerstone, its subsidiary Barita Investments, and First Citizens Bank.
“Senator Mark made his usual scandalous, untruthful, wrong, false contribution, I wish I could use some unparliamentary language...” Imbert began, before charging that Mark “fell into [the] trap or willingly joined [the] negative campaign and uttered absolute nonsense” about Barita, Cornerstone, and First Citizens Bank, while making his contribution in the Senate on Monday.
“Well, let me just say, Madame President, these are the facts. First Citizens Bank is diversifying outside of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with the full support of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. First Citizens is seeking to make investments throughout the Caribbean. Seeking to acquire banks throughout the Caribbean — in the Northern Caribbean, Southern Caribbean, and even outside of the Caribbean region — and we're encouraging them. The only way for our companies to grow is to diversify outside of the economy of Trinidad and Tobago,” Imbert outlined in the second session in the sixth sitting of the Senate on Wednesday.
Imbert is part of the People's National Movement (PNM) which forms the Government.
The TT Government owns 64.43 per cent of First Citizens Bank, which has grown net profit by four per cent to TT$487.43 million ($10.77 billion), with total assets amounting to TT$46.84 billion ($1.04 trillion) up to the end of June.
First Citizens Bank made its first investment in Barita in the company's 2020 additional public offering, where it acquired a five per cent stake for $2.82 billion through First Citizens Investment Services Limited (FCIS).
Imbert went onto further highlight points from a conversation he had with the CEO of Massy Holdings Limited about expanding outside of the twin island republic and the Caribbean.
Massy is planning to cross list on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) by January. That process is being lead by a joint partnership between FCIS and Barita.
“I remember the CEO of Massy telling me so many years ago, that company had maxed out in terms of market share in Trinidad and Tobago. They had decided many years ago that having also maxed out in the Caribbean in terms of market share, that Massy decided to enter Central America. They are doing very well in penetrating markets in Central America. That is the future for our large companies. They must diversify and reach out to international markets. Republic Bank is in Ghana, for example, having acquired a significant bank in Ghana,” said Imbert.
Massy's Colombian segment made up 15 per cent of its TT$8.58 billion in revenue and seven per cent of the TT$635.4 million profit before tax. Trinidad and Tobago makes up 38 per cent of Massy's revenue and 39 per cent of its profit before tax.
According to Imbert, Barita is the oldest operating brokerage firm in Jamaica with more than $300 billion in assets under management. He confirmed that the aggregate investment made so far stands at $5.8 billion or TT$260 million. He later noted that the investment now stands at TT$390 million, with Barita giving a dividend income/yield above five per cent, which he says is one of the highest in the entire Caribbean.
He also stated, “Its board of directors are all prominent and long-standing members of the business community in Jamaica. It's not a fly-by-the-night company. It's 44 years old and is the largest securities dealer in Jamaica.”
However, checks made by the Caribbean Business Report confirmed that Barita is the largest securities dealer by JSE market capitalisation, but not by assets when compared to other firms in the market. That distinction goes to either Sagicor Investments Limited or NCB.
Imbert talks back on First Citizens Investment in Barita
NCB Capital Markets (NCBCM) Limited's 2020 audited accounts revealed it had $109.51 billion in total assets. The wealth, asset management, and investment segment assets of NCB Jamaica's (NCBJ) consolidated accounts from 2015 shows that it had $142.94 billion. NCBJ underwent a restructuring in 2016, which placed it under the NCB Financial Group, which has two other subsidiaries in wealth management.
The dividend yield on FCIS's original investment at $52 would be 7.25 per cent based on the $3.775 dividend paid since the start of the year. The dividend yield on the closing price of $94.98 is 3.97 per cent. Barita is also one of the oldest brokerage firms, with Edward Gayle and Company rebranding itself as NCBCM in December 2003. Barita and FCIS are planning a major collaboration, which should be revealed shortly.
Imbert and Mark's comments come in the middle of the Electoral College meeting to decide if a tribunal should be formed to investigate the president of Trinidad and Tobago for a possible impeachment proceeding. Opposition leader and head of the United National Congress (UNC) Kamla Persad Bissessar called for the motion to remove Paula–Mae Weekes due to the recent Police Services Commission interference.
“We must not be so insular. If we cry down Trinidad in investment in Jamaica, it creates an atmosphere, anti-Trinidadian atmosphere, like a former prime minister, years ago, created such a bad relationship with Jamaica by saying that Trinidad and Tobago is not the ATM [automated teller machine] of the Caribbean,” Imbert said.
“So, if earning TT$130 million on a TT$260 million investment in two years is bad, I don't know what is good. So, that was just Senator Mark making one of his wild, groundless, baseless, scandalous, frivolous, and useless allegations,” Imbert added.