BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 31, 2015–Today at the Belize Biltmore Plaza, the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Dean Barrow, held a press conference at which he announced that the Government of Belize will pay to Fortis Inc. 35 million US dollars cash as compensation for the government’s acquisition of 70% of Fortis’ shareholding in Belize Electricity Limited. The Prime Minister further revealed that intermediate talks had been taking place for a while now, but only recently came to a head when Barry Perry became the president & CEO of Fortis.
The Prime Minister met with Perry in his new capacity when he visited Belize in July 2015, which initiated what the Prime Minister described as “a whirlwind negotiating process”. The settlement the Prime Minister announced today was reached in little over a month. However, it does not end there; the Prime Minister added that the Government of Belize is giving back to Fortis 33 1/3% shareholding interests in BEL. The remaining 70% will be jointly held by the Social Security Board (SSB), which has 26.9% ownership, and the Government of Belize, which continues to own, with the inclusion of its SSB stakes, well in excess of the 51% mandated in the constitution and required for majority ownership and control.
The Prime Minister is very confident that this new arrangement with Fortis will serve BEL and Belize well. He stated that they are experts in the industry and have many resources which he believes will help Belize “in its quest for energy, security and sustainability.” He also pointed out that Fortis’ interests in solar electric power can ultimately benefit Belize.
On the other hand, if Fortis at some point in the future finds the arrangement to be unfavorable to their interests, there is a provision in the settlement for them to re-sell to the Government of Belize their 33 1/3% ownership after certain conditions have been met. The Prime Minister said, “The Government of Belize will immediately acquire, but will have two years to pay for the reacquisition on the basis of the value of the shares at the time of the buyback.”
“To complete the settlement, the Government of Belize has undertaken that Fortis will be completely free to continue to lawfully operate BECOL, its other interest in Belize,” PM Barrow additionally noted.
Finally, the Prime Minister concluded, “Truly, then, this is a turning of the page – a revitalized partnership with Fortis on the accepted basis of majority Belizean ownership of our essential electricity utility company.