Completion of the sale of St. Maarten’s 12.5 per cent in United Telecommunications Services (UTS) to Liberty Latin America (LLA) ends any possible doubts over the deal (see related story). Continued uncertainty for too long a period is never desirable in such transactions, especially because the stage was already set since LLA’s purchase of the majority 87.5 per cent stake from Curaçao.
Finance Minister Perry Geerlings had recently talked about a ministerial decree needed to ensure there were no UTS debts to Bureau Telecommunication and Post (BTP). Although there had been some outstanding amounts, he was not sure these could be validated, as they dated back to the former Netherlands Antilles.
He also said at the time that an initiative law submitted by Member of Parliament (MP) Rolando Brison authorising government to sell its shares had still been with the governor for his signature. Apparently, all that has meanwhile been finalised.
The current employees will keep their jobs at least for now and the integration process between the two companies is said to be progressing. Their respective brands Flow and UTS have reportedly been sharing best practices that will hopefully benefit clients as well.
A major concern was the possible negative impact on UTS’ direct competitor TelEm Group, which is 100 per cent owned by the local government. However, director Kendal Dupersoy said in Monday’s paper that the effects would depend on several factors, including regulations put in place by BTP.
He added that they are preparing for all kinds of scenarios and seeking partnerships. Mention was also made of loyal customers.
In any case, government has earmarked NAf. 12 million of the NAf. 21 million it will receive from LLA for reducing its arrears to the same TelEm Group. And while that income was obviously already on the books, it is now actually going to flow into their coffers.