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#486258 - 02/19/14 10:06 AM Citrus Stakeholders Meet: Can’t We All Get Along?
Marty Offline
Last night, we showed you the press conference that the Prime Minister hosted to explain how his government intends to bail out the crisis torn Citrus Industry.

Majority Shareholder the Citrus Growers Association has been at odds with Barbadian Beverage Giant, Banks Holding Limited, which is a minority shareholder - but one with a powerful veto vote over board decisions.

The CGA, which represents 90% of citrus farmers, has repeatedly criticized Banks for using its veto power to stall board decisions for years. CGA wants to buy out Banks - but that's an expensive dream - as much as 20 million US dollars, and government has said it won't use public funds for a private buyout. But it will front about 15 million dollars to bridge the Citrus products of Belize Limited through a cash flow and debt crisis which has immobilized the industry.

The road map was hammered out by the Prime Minister yesterday before he left the country and today in Belmopan, Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega met with all stakeholders to ensure they agree to a way forward. The meeting included Anthony King, the Board Chairman of Banks Holdings Limited. He sat with all other stakeholders in the cabinet room today for almost 6 hours, and when they exited, 7News was there. Here's what the Banks Holdings Chairman had to say to the media about the controversy his company continues to find itself in:

Anthony King - Board Chairman, Banks Holdings Limited
"We've had a meeting to get a resolution to move forward and I think we've achieved that. So, I think everyone is quite content that we found a way forward, certainly Banks Holding is and the meeting also had to engage in discussion regarding some working capital support and financing for the company, so the time we spent in the meeting wasn't all about matters between the CGA and ourselves, it was also about the company and I think we appeared to have satisfactory resolve the interim financing as well."

Hon. Gaspar Vega - Minister of Natural Resources and Agriculture
"We've made some changes. An MOU is being prepared and it should be finalize tomorrow but all parties agreed so far to the MOU that is being prepared where we are going to be having some changes on the structure on the board of directors. We are getting 2 members from CGA, 2 from BHL, 1 from Social Security Board, 1 one Heritage Bank and 1 from GOB. Everything went well; I believe that it is the beginning for prosperity in that industry. We had to come up with 4 million dollars unsecured loans for CPBL so that the small farmers can be paid for their fruits that it's being owed presently."

Daniel Ortiz
"We notice that an issue has always been where CGA says that Banks Holdings uses its veto power to keep them stalled. Do you guys plan to continue in a stalemate with an important partner such as CGA?"

Anthony King - Board Chairman, Banks Holdings Limited
"Well I don't believe that we have ever use that certainly for the impediment of the company or in the interest of the company. We have had this agreement on a couple of issues but under the new arrangements there is another board and I think that the arrangements we have agreed upon on the structure, the board is very likely to not present that as a problem or a need for us to use going forward."

William Henry Bowman - Executive Director, Belize Citrus Mutual
"Most of the items that were put on the table have been discuss and agreed to. What is sticking right now is some minor legalities where one is suing, the next one is counter suing and we are trying to see if we can get them to drop both cases and move forward peacefully. And this is what they need to do because Banks is most willing, CGA is holding out a little bit strong on the dropping of the case at this moment."

Mike Rudon, reporter Ch 5
"Which case is that sir? Could you refresh your memory?"

William Henry Bowman
"This is to do with the investment agreement where CGA is trying to get certain changes in that and that is still on the table."

Daniel Ortiz
"Is that where BHL has veto power sir?"

William Henry Bowman
"Yes BHL has veto power, but you know you must understand, they keep saying BHL has veto power, but CGA has the veto power also because as investment agreement between the 2 parties - If BHL was able to do something that CGA didn't like, CGA could also veto it."

Daniel Ortiz
"The presentation that CGA has made to its farmers and general membership at its last meeting was that Banks Holdings is the problem, has always been the problem and will always be the problem if their influence remains in the industry. Is it the same opinion or do you at Belize Citrus Mutual have that similar opinion."

William Henry Bowman
"We left the Citrus Growers Association because of our disagreeing with the way CGA was being run by those directors. We wanted not a part to do with them because they were taking down the wrong road. Banks to me in my opinion has been an asset to this company and if only they could work together this industry would have been much bigger and much more viable. I don't see where Banks was the problem at all."

The terms set in today's meeting are supposed to be drafted up in an MOU to be finalized tomorrow.

Channel 7


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#486266 - 02/19/14 10:26 AM Re: Citrus Stakeholders Meet: Can’t We All Get Along? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

CGA, CPBL and Banks agree to proposal to restructure CPBL Board

On Monday, the Government of Belize announced its intervention in the ongoing citrus industry crisis. That intervention came by way of enabling immediate financing to assure payment to growers, and restructuring CPBL to create an effective and cohesive management structure. It’s a complicated undertaking, made more so because of incessant tension between the CGA and Banks Holdings, both major shareholders in CPBL. But today, there is a framework in place, and an agreement by all parties to adhere to it. Mike Rudon was in Belmopan today as stakeholders met to hammer out the fine details. Here’s that story.

FOR VIDEO CLICK HERE.

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The meeting with citrus industry stakeholders, lending institutions and G.O.B. started at ten thirty this morning in the Cabinet Room in Belmopan and lasted five hours. But with the industry in crisis and a solution apparently within reach, that has to be time well spent. Stakeholders emerged at three thirty this afternoon with the news that much progress had been made.

Anthony King

Anthony King, Executive Chairman, Banks Holdings

“I think everyone is quiet content that we have found a way forward certainly and the meeting also had to engage in discussions of working capital support and financing for the company. So the time spent in the meeting wasn’t all about matters between the CGA and ourselves; it was also about the company. I think that we appear to have satisfactorily resolved the interim financing as well.”

An MOU is being prepared and that will be presented tomorrow. In that MOU the composition of the new Board is detailed. Executive Chairman of Banks Holding Anthony King had no problem with the change, going so far as to assert that it will do much to allay the perception of its veto power being used improperly.

Gaspar Vega

Gaspar Vega, Minister of Agriculture

“I think it was a long meeting, but very sincere, very productive and I think it was extremely productive. We ended up getting all members of the industry to shake hand, to realize that we have to be together to get the industry to move forward. We made some changes, an MOU is being prepared and it should be finalized tomorrow. But all parties agreed so far to the MOU that is being prepared where we are going to be having some changes on the structure of the Board of Directors. We are getting two members from CGA, two from BHL, one from Social Security Board, one from Heritage Bank and one from G.O.B.”

 

Anthony King

“I don’t believe that we have ever used that certainly for the impediment of the company. We have had disagreement on a couple of issues. But under the new arrangements there is another Board and I think that the arrangements we have agreed upon and the structure of the Board is very likely to not present that as a problem or a need for us to use going forward.”

One of the priority items on today’s agenda was the procurement of immediate financing to pay growers, and the short term acquisition of CPBL’s loan facility by G.O.B.  That matter was resolved.

Gaspar Vega

“We had to come up with some four million dollars on secured loan for CPBL so that small farmers can be paid for their fruits that is being owed presently. FCIB agreed on the selling out of the debt that they own at a discount price and that should be taken care of or finalized, we are expecting within four weeks.”

And with the financing out of the way, there was a deadlock on the matter of a lawsuit and counter-suit between the CGA and Banks Holdings Limited, having to do with the investment agreement.

William Bowman

William Bowman, Executive Director, Belize Citrus Mutual

“What is sticking right now is some minor legalities where one is suing, the next one is countersuing and we are trying to see if they can get them to drop both case and move forward peacefully. And this is what they need to do because Banks is most willing, CGA is holding out a little bit strong on the dropping of the case at this moment.”

Gaspar Vega

“They did not agree to drop the suits, they agreed on a suspension of the suits. And hopefully they will be able to iron out their differences and settle or drop the cases. But for now, it was just suspended.”

So all items may not have been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, but there is a clear path forged, with immediate financing concerns addressed and an MOU being made ready for signing tomorrow. That is good news for the industry.

William Bowman

“This is a pressing issue for every grower. As I said yesterday all I want to see is this industry run for the benefit of all growers, treated fairly to all growers. I said that none of us are bigger than this industry. This industry is by far bigger than all of us put together and it is so valuable to the economy of the country and the livelihood of thousands of people.”

CGA representatives did not hang around at the end of today’s meeting, but left the building immediately, which is why we were unable to get a comment from their side. Mike Rudon for News Five.

Channel 5


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