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#409708 - 06/11/11 08:46 AM SSB springs $14 mil for Fresh Catch!  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,777
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

The Social Security Board (SSB) is considering a $15-million loan for Nature Fresh Belize Limited which would enable the newly formed company to seal the buyout of the assets of Fresh Catch Belize Limited, which was put under receivership last year by First Caribbean International Bank.

Fresh Catch Belize Limited is owned by the Mena family—so is Nature Fresh Belize Limited, according to chairman of the Social Security Board’s investment committee, Nestor “Net” Vasquez.

“The new company is from the same family... As far as I am aware, the shareholders are members of the Mena family,” said Vasquez.

Speaking with Amandala Thursday night, Mr. Vasquez said his committee made a recommendation to the SSB’s board of directors to approve the loan back in May.

Amandala has learned that Nature Fresh Belize Limited was officially formed on the 19th of May 2011.

According to a notice published in The Star newspaper of Cayo, the SSB is offering $14,912,339 to Nature Fresh Belize Limited for 10 years at a rate of 8% on the reducing balance.

Asked how he would respond to criticisms the public might have of SSB’s decision to lend money to a company to buy out the assets of a venture, from essentially the same set of investors, that had been put under receivership last year, Vasquez said that the Mena family has produced more equity than they had in Fresh Catch before, and they have more than 100% collateral.

We asked, what is the collateral? Apart from lands, Vasquez said he was unable to specifically recall anything else when we spoke with him tonight.

According to Vasquez, the Menas now have a much smaller indebtedness to cope with and because of their plans for value-added services, including packaging services to small fish farmers, the production prospects look good.

He told Amandala that the investment committee made the recommendation after doing its due diligence. He said the SSB had enough financial information to evaluate the loan application.

Amandala also contacted Emile Mena, who is also a member of the SSB’s investment committee, for comment, but he declined to give us any specifics.

He did indicate to our newspaper, however, that he couldn’t vote on this loan transaction because of his relationship with Fresh Catch. Mena declined any comment on Nature Fresh Belize Limited, when we asked him about the company.

Documents filed at the Belize Companies Registry reveal that the listed subscribers are Tracey Ebanks and Lisa Peyrefitte, and Nature Fresh Belize Limited was formed by a company called Apex Trust, an affiliate of the W.H. Courtenay law firm.

Vasquez said Fresh Catch, before it went bankrupt, had initially asked the SSB for $6 million.

The only loan records we could find online for SSB in relation to Fresh Catch is a $3.3 million loan listed in the 2005 annual report at 12% interest for a one-year term.

Vasquez said that Nature Fresh can do a lot more with the $15 million than the original plan had envisioned.

The Menas – Joe, Emile, Joseph and Bryan – had informed workers on July 23, 2010, that Fresh Catch had been experiencing financial challenges for quite some time. The company was on the hook for a US$10.6 million loan with First Caribbean International Bank, which also foreclosed on a second business, The Wood Depot, which had been a guarantor for the debt of Fresh Catch.

Vasquez told Amandala, “...we believe that the company will be able to have the earnings necessary to repay the [SSB] loan. We are dead certain they have more than enough collateral.”

He also said, “The banks no longer want our [SSB’s] money.”

According to Vasquez, the average interest rate paid now on bank deposits is around 7%, when SSB used to get 10%.

“Two banks have written to say 5.5% is what they will give,” he added.

He said that the reasons for investing in Nature Fresh are not only would SSB recover its money, but also, the venture would earn foreign exchange, employ workers and have positive spin-off effects for small farmers, who could sell their fish to the new enterprise for packaging and export.

In the published notice coming from SSB’s CEO Merlene Bailey-Martinez this week, the SSB says, “Members of the public wishing to express any concern may send a copy of this notice along with comments to: Chief Executive Officer; Social Security Board; P.O. Box 18; Belmopan, Cayo District; Belize.”

Vasquez said that the publication of the notice is required by law.


#409710 - 06/11/11 08:49 AM Re: SSB springs $14 mil for Fresh Catch! [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,777
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

SSB approves $14.9 Million loan for Fresh Catch

A public notice caught our attention in a recent issue of the Star Newspaper based in Cayo. It states that the Investment Committee of the Social Security Board has recommended to the Board of Directors, the approval of fourteen point nine million dollars to a company by the name of Nature Fresh Belize Ltd for what it says is the buyout of the assets of Fresh Catch Belize and to provide operating capital. A viewer has pointed out that a recent SSB actuarial review recommends that investments of the SSB should not be done in companies that have been declared bankrupt and in receivership. Investments in commodities that are traded in volatile international markets are high risk and would place the reserves of the SSB funds in jeopardy. Rather the SSB should be invested in a low-risk and diversified portfolio. And the portfolio should be as liquid as possible given the impending maturity of the fund.

Channel 5

#409737 - 06/11/11 07:56 PM Re: SSB springs $14 mil for Fresh Catch! [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 723
SFJeff Offline
SFJeff  Offline
...not investing SSB $$$ into companies simply because "they have been declared bankrupt" seems awfully conservative don't you think???

#409741 - 06/12/11 07:47 AM Re: SSB springs $14 mil for Fresh Catch! [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,434
Katie Valk Offline
Katie Valk  Offline
This is more complicated; or much simpler. The Mena Group borrowed a huge amount from Ft Caribbean; declared bankruptcy and was able to buy back their company for a fraction of that, using lands we know nothing about the value of, as collateral. I don't want my SSB $ going into investments like that, especially at 8% interest. This should have gone to DFC, but Mena is PUP and UDP and plays both well. Look into the Mena Groups illegal logging practices in the Mtn Pine Ridge where they have raped and clear cut without reproach or fines or being shut down by Forest Dept. They have devastated the blocks they are licensed to log. And did not contribute any assistance during the last fires up there.

Belize based travel specialist
#409905 - 06/15/11 08:51 AM Re: SSB springs $14 mil for Fresh Catch! [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 57,777
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Fresh Catch/Nature Catch Loan Torpedoed By Cabinet

Fresh Catch Belize Limited - a large-scale Tilapia Farming Operation owned by the Mena Family - went into receivership in July of 2010.

Since then the Mena's have been trying to resuscitate the operation - and with Senator Godwin Hulse doing the pitch, they presented their plan to the Social Security Board Investment Committee.

And, it worked. After doing its due diligence, the investment committee approved a loan of 14.9 million dollars for ten years at 8% to a new company comprising essentially the same principals; this time it's called Nature Fresh Belize. The loan still has to be approved by the Social Security Board - and a notice has been published inviting comments from the public.

Since then, it's been a source of controversy, due to the 14.9 million dollar figure, the fact that it is to bail out a failed company, and with the same group at the helm.

That controversy has been furiously fanned by the hosts of the Fus Ting Da Mawnin on the UDP's WAVE Radio who insist that the Mena's should have taken their proposal to a commercial bank - and not to the Social Security Board.

And it seems Cabinet is on the same page. An unusual cabinet release from the office of the Prime Minister which went out this evening at 5:30 says that Cabinet discussed the proposed loan - and does not support it. The release hastens to add that, the decision, however is strictly for the Social security Board - which does not act on Cabinet directives. Indeed, it does not, but it would be unusual for it to act against such a clear, public position taken by Cabinet.

The release adds that Cabinet is pleased that SSB is working the process and allowing for representations from the public to be made before any loan decision can be finalized.

It adds - with more than a hint of suggestion - that "with the public now weighing in, SSB will take on board all representations before concluding the matter."

Channel 7

#409912 - 06/15/11 09:49 AM Re: SSB springs $14 mil for Fresh Catch! [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,434
Katie Valk Offline
Katie Valk  Offline
Only us caught with a hook in mouth for this loan from SSB, my money in essence, not theirs. This should go to DFC, if anywhere and then turned down.

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