Today makes exactly thirty days, one month since Government took over the national power company, BEL. All things considered, the transition was effected smoothly, without any major hiccups, and more importantly, without any major interruption in your power supply.

To some extent that has been thanks to the kindness of creditors, including CFE, the Mexican power company. Locke was part of a delegation led by Sir Manuel Esquivel which went to Mexico in early July to negotiate a new government to government deal with CFE - which should give BEL some relief in its power purchasing costs. Speaking with 7news today, he discussed the meeting and the agreement that came out of it:..

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"The atmosphere was very good. We were happy to see the Managing Director of CFE attending that meeting. You have to understand that BEL represents a thousandth of the Mexicans' business. So to actually get the managing director to come to a meeting like that it definitely meant that the support that the Prime Minister sought through the Mexican President had some results. Otherwise, you would not get the managing director to a meeting of that nature. Having said that, besides that, the whole meeting was one of how would we build a medium to long-term relationship. So that kind of atmosphere kind of lends to the Mexicans trying their best to see how they can support us. We recognize that the Mexicans have some limitations towards what they can do. The Mexicans will not sell us power cheaper than they sell their own Mexican clients that are for sure. So it's a matter of understanding their own limitations and then trying to make sure you work within that and so once we know what we were asking of them was within those limitations then we felt comfortable in putting forward our case to them."

"As it is we haven't signed the agreement with Mexico as yet. We just got the final draft from them last night and now we are going through that doing the translation and everything and so it's not until we ink that agreement that I would like to be able to say that this is the new projection we can use in cost-of-power from them."

The range we are looking at is anywhere from about 5 - 10 percent better. But it depends on the scenarios and those scenarios are dictated by how much rain we have and how much power we have to get from CFE and what time of the day we have to get it from CFE."

And while there are many variables in that CFE agreement - at BEL, there's only one job, and that's keeping the lights on. Sounds simple, but before the government takeover the company was on the verge of implementing rolling blackouts. For this government appointed CEO - who is a former operations manager at BEL - the crisis management takeover is not an altogether unfamiliar situation: Locke is a former Shell Executive who worked as that multinational's regional marketing manager for the Caribbean.

He says the BEL takeover was similar to one he did some years ago in Jamaica - where Shell had been losing money for three years and he led it to turn a profit in 9 months:…

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"I told some of my colleagues that I have been in this situation before. When I moved to Jamaica it was like that, so when you have taken a company that is not performing well and (with) minimum hand-over - you expect a steep learning curve."

Jules Vasquez
"The takeover was fomented by months of illiquidity. What is the status of BEL's cash flow and liquidity right now?"

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"Jules, that is something that we look at every week. You know before the government took over they were pre-paying to keep the business liquid and we needed one more injection of that just after the government took over. So with a 6 million dollar payment that was made by the government in the last week in June, we have been able to stay afloat and we would be able to then give us time to work through our cash flow, and from our projections by next month we would have a very good feel of how the rest of the year will look."

Alfonso Noble, Guardian Newspaper
"Was it as bad as the former CEO was saying?"

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"Yes it was bad. Roughly speaking we owed over 34 million dollars to our suppliers, we had about 3 million dollars in the bank and so it was that bad."

Jules Vasquez
"If you knew then what you now know about the actual state of financial affairs at BEL and the Prime Minister had asked your advice on if he should take over the company. Would you have said yes take it over, or would you have proposed a more measured approach?"

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"Even what I know now is still from a position as a CEO and not as a position from a potential shareholder and that's a big difference. And I think people need to appreciate that. And so I still would think I would not have been in a good position to make that determination with the information I have. The information I have now is the information of a CEO not the information of a shareholder."

Jules Vasquez
"However the company was legitimately broke, legitimately unable to meet its commitments. You are satisfied with those two things?"

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"Yes. I don't think any of the correspondence that the previous executives wrote on this matter, any of the previous interviews, misrepresent that fact that they were broke. It's the truth - they were broke."

Jules Vasquez
"Now the PUC specifically the chairman has made allegations that the treatment of a number of items in the financials is what fomented, what drove BEL into a position of illiquidity or as the Prime Minister called it bankruptcy."

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"Jules I don't have a position on that. Like I said since I've been in this seat, I've been trying to make sure this light stays on and I haven't spent a lot of time in going back as to how FORTIS choose to direct the company and how FORTIS chose to do certain decisions. I don't think there is much benefit in me trying to figure out what FORTIS' objectives were."

Jules Vasquez
"So what is the status of BEL meeting its obligations to those external creditors starting first with BELCOGEN?"

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"We have been meeting every one of our suppliers. In the case of BELCOGEN we are current, the only exception we have is a outstanding invoice which BELCOGEN and us have been working through and as recently as yesterday I think we settled on what the outstanding amount should be and the we would arrange a payment plan for that. The only supplier we are not current with is BECOL and that has been the case before I took office and we are still not current with them but we have been paying them recently and we are trying to work out a payment plan. As soon as we finish our cash flow projections then we could realistically tell them how we aim to pay down the arrears to them."

Jules Vasquez
"At what point will the company be self-sustaining without needing these pre-payments from the government?"

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"I would say by the second week in August we would have a very good feel of that. We are doing the cash flow projections right now. As you are aware we have just come back from Mexico negotiating some new rates, so all of those numbers are now being built into that projection."

Jules Vasquez
"Have those key management posts which were vacated two days before the takeover - those executive management posts - have those been filled with personnel?"

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"No , I have determined not to replace those positions and the simple reason for that is that I would like the decisions of BEL to be made a little bit closer to the frontline. So by removing an entire layer of management then the decision makers are closer to the frontline and closer to what is happening out there and so we could keep on top of things."

Jules Vasquez
"How have your relations with the staff been in general knowing that they had pledged fealty to another owner and it's a tough transition for anyone to change their loyalties - inevitable confusion arises."

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"This is not the first time our staff had to go through that Jules and that's the good thing. One of the things we need to recognize about BEL is that we have staff with 30-40 years of service in BEL like Mr. Ramirez, Mrs. Yama. A staffer, Mr. Castillo is celebrating 30 years of service with BEL, so they have been through those transitions. So as long as they know the transitions are not going to be something just arbitrary in terms of the way it affects them, they are prepared to work for BEL. Remember at the end of the day they are working for BEL and not for the shareholder of BEL, but for BEL. So irrespective of who becomes the shareholder, their commitment is in the company that they work for."

Locke worked at BEL from 1986 to 1991. And while he's stabilized the company and mostly gotten current with its creditors - albeit with another pre-payment from government - regular folks don't really care are that much about the corporate details: they want to know, with Government running the show -will their light bills go down? We asked CEO Locke that question:

Jules Vasquez
"People out there who are seeing this only care about one thing. When will you lower my electricity rate? Everything increases and so the price of fuel has increased which directly affects power. But that's what people want to know. Will they have lower light rates?"

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"I'll correct you. People want to know if their lights are going to stay on."

Jules Vasquez
"I think people assume that it should stay on."

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"No they want to know especially in the atmosphere in which the company was taken over. We were told that there is a possibility that we weren't able to keep the lights on. The primary objective is to keep the lights on. That is the focus of BEL now and I think every member of staff will tell you every time I get to speak to them, somewhere in that discussion will be "to keep the lights on." So I would say to the public - hold us to that. Our focus and our objective should be "let's keep the lights on" going forward. Then we will see opportunities as to how to improve on the rates. Everything is on the table for review. we have to look from top to bottom in our financials to see where we can we make sure - if there is any fat in the system - if there is any room for improvement we are going to look at it and that's what we are doing right now. So capital projects - every single thing is on the table right now under review."

"At the end of the day we should follow the guidelines of good corporate governance and good corporate governance says that the shareholder sets the direction once a year at the AGM - sets basic objectives as to what he or she wants of his company. After the shareholder is the owner of the company and once they have set that course then it's up to the board and the executive management to see how best they could deliver on that."

Jules Vasquez
"However you will agree that philosophically there has to be a fundamental difference between a private owner who wants to maximize profits and a public owner who should want to maximize benefits for the public at large."

Jeffrey Locke, CEO - BEL
"Absolutely. that difference shouldn't be that major. I would expect government being the majority shareholder would be a little lenient on profit but the company still needs to generate money to keep operating."

Depending on what's in the final agreement with CFE - Locke excepts that by mid-August all the projections will be in and he'll have a good feel as to the way forward.

Of note is that the government managed BEL has not dropped the multiple lawsuits it had against the PUC, but they will try to settle the matters out of court. As a sort of sweetener, BEL has now paid up its license fees to BEL, a total of about seven hundred thousand dollars.

Channel 7