October 31 2018
Dr. Ranjisinghi ’Bobby’ Ramroop
Despite the fact that the bulk of the money invested in the Berbice Bridge came from National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Dr. Ranjisinghi ’Bobby’ Ramroop is the largest shareholder.This was confirmed in a missive from Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) yesterday.
A chart that was included in the missive, provided details about the ownership of the bridge. It shows that Ramroop, a very close friend of former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, is the largest shareholder.NICIL has 10 percent shares in the bridge, NIS has 20.2 percent, Hand In Hand Fire Insurance has 10, New GPC has 20 percent, Queens Atlantic Investment Inc. has 20 percent and Secure International Finance Co. Limited owns 20 percent.
This chart was provided by BCCI
Brassington’s brother, Michael, is the largest shareholder in Hand in Hand. The Ramroop/Brassington combination therefore puts the ownership of the bridge in the hands of Jagdeo’s close friends.
The BCCI was keen to note yesterday that no single company has a majority share. However, Bobby Ramroop owns two of the companies that each has 20 percent shares.
BCCI said, “The NIS is not the majority shareholder. No single shareholder (Company) owns the majority of shares. In an eight-person Board of Directors, six are ordinary shareholders, including the NIS, one is a preferential shareholder (the NIS) and one subordinated loan holder (including the NIS). The last two categories, preference shares and subordinated loans, have no general voting rights.”
The reality is that these two have the bulk of the money in the bridge, much more than Ramroop’s two companies.
Also, BCCI yesterday condemned this newspaper saying that it published “lies” about the bridge and is ignoring “truths”.
One of the purported “lies” is that the “contract was structured to allow investors with disproportionately small investments to control the asset”. BCCI said this even though, based on its own chart, Ramroop owns more shares than NIS which invested more money.
BBCI said that it is bound by its Concession Agreement under the Berbice River Bridge Act in implementing the tolls charged at the Bridge. The Company said that it has no alternative but to honour the Toll Adjustment Formula prescribed in the Agreement; no discretion in calculating the amount of the toll and is bound by the Toll Adjustment Policy dictating the Formula.
BCCI said that since 2015, respective governments—previous and present—have violated their contractual obligations to implement an annual toll adjustment which would have resulted in “small incremental adjustments instead of the current burdensome level. The Kaieteur News has chosen to ignore this truth.”
BCCI said that the current level of toll adjustment is entirely the fault of the government, not the Company.
BCCI said, “Prior to and since taking office, this government has refused to meet with the BBCI in spite of three (3) requests to do so. The power and the privilege to review or amend the Concession Agreement rest entirely with the government. The Kaieteur News has chosen to ignore this truth.”
“The Kaieteur News has then lied about the shareholding of the Company. The Kaieteur News claims that the ‘majority shares of BBCI is owned by the NIS and control is in the hands of private entities. This is a lie.”
The Kaieteur News claims that “in its first year of operation the BBCI collected GS1.4B in revenue”. This is yet another lie. In its first full year of operation (2009), BBCI earned GS946M. In truth, after nine years of operations, BBCI’s annual toll revenue has never exceeded G$1.372B.
The Bridge Company also said that Kaieteur News lied when it said that “Contractual Agreement was clearly designed to make few people wealthy at the expenses of the masses”.
BCCI said, “First, the six ordinary shareholders are not guaranteed a return on their investment. Their investments are subjected to the risk of the company making a profit and cash flow availability.
“Since BBCI has made no profit, no dividends have been paid to any of the shareholders. Even if a profit is made, the payment of any dividends is at the discretion of the Directors, after taking into account the cash flow position of the company the truth is that from the inception of the Bridge, the NIS, whose investments represent every Guyanese citizen, has earned 94 percent returns on its total investment, i.e. GS2.4B.
Because of the shortfall in revenue resulting from Government’s refusal over the past three years to make toll adjustments, the BBCI has been able to pay the NIS only G$1.73 of the returns which came from its GS2.59B investment in BBCI and G$222M in principle repayments.