American Sugar Refineries (ASR) is expected to make payments to settle all of the debts by Belize Sugar Industry Limited and BELCOGEN to the tune of 64 million U.S. dollars by next week. Also liquidated will be a 10-million-dollar loan, which the government made to BSI back in 2010 as well as 2-year dividend payments to the BSI Holdings trust amounting to 5.4 million dollars. Additionally, ASR will invest 30 million U.S. dollars in production expansion at the plant.
But before ASR makes the payments, the Government went to the National Assembly to pass the Sugar Industry and Cogeneration Project (Development Incentives) Bill, 2012.
The Bill is an updating of the BELCOGEN Act of 2005, which gave the company certain tax concessions that run up to 2022. In the area of Business Tax, BELCOGEN currently has 2 years remaining; that will be adjusted to go up to 2016. Under the new ASR arrangement, BSI/BELCOGEN will get tax exemption of 80% in 2013; 60% in 2014; 40% in 2015 and 20% in 2016.
As it relates to taxes on dividends, BELCOGEN has a 15-year tax break from 2007 up to 2022 and that has been reduced to go to the year 2018. Similarly, taxes on technical services has been cut down from the year 2022 to 2018, tax breaks on interest payments remain up to the year 2022 as it was in the original BELCOGEN Act.
A 10-year exemption is also being given to the company from 2013 to 2018 on import duties and environmental tax; this is a reduction of time as the original BELCOGEN Act gave the company exemptions up to 2022. In the area of Stamp Duties, the company is being given a 50% waiver on the transaction for the sale of shares.
Speaking at the House Meeting on Wednesday, September 26th as the new Bill was being passed, Prime Minister Dean Barrow explained that the concessions are justifiable since the investment by ASR will rescue the sugar industry and guarantees the long term viability and prosperity of the industry. He added that, "government is proud of the role it has played so far." PM Barrow then went to explain the trajectory that the sugar industry has taken to bring it where it is at now. He recalled that the industry was on the verge of collapse with government having to step in to lend BSI 10 million dollars and creditors coming to the company's door to collect on debts amounting to 64 million U.S. dollars.
With the new composition of ownership in BSI/BELCOGEN, ASR will assume a majority shareholding in the company with the Government and employees of BSI owning a combined 22% in the company. All told, ASR is investing over 100 million U.S. dollars in BSI and BELCOGEN and the Prime Minister noted that this is the largest all-at-once direct investment the country has ever seen.
More than the largest investment in Belize, ASR's investment will guarantee better prices for sugar exported to Europe. Technical services will also be extended to BSI, BELCOGEN and the farmers as well as financing of extension services to cane farmers. There are also components for funding of planting and cultivation of sugarcane by farmers. In the event of failures at the plant or in the event of natural disasters, ASR will assume responsibility for any damages.
In summing up, Prime Minister Dean Barrow noted that with the investment there will be unprecedented prosperity for cane farmers and it is the best imaginable deal for farmers in Orange Walk and Corozal.
A Done Deal: ASR Acquires BSI Majority Shares/ Pays Off Debt
The Belize Sugar Industry had been saddled with tens of millions of US dollars in debt for years, but tonight, it has a fresh start, a complete reset - all the numbers on its balance sheet are a rolled back to Zero.
And that's because American Sugar Refinery has paid off the full indebtedness - 64.8 million US dollars - in exchange for 78.6% equity in the company's shares.
With that $64.8 million US, BSI paid off all its debts which it owed to International Netherlands Group (ING), the Belcogen Consortium of Lenders, and the Government of Belize.
Viewers may remember that GOB stepped late in 2011 and loaned BSI 10 million Belizean dollars to jump-start cane crops and as a measure to get ING to give BSI a one-year extension on its 20 million US dollar debt.
Well, all of those debts are paid with ASR owning majority of the company and BSI Employee's Holdings Limited controlling the rest of the 21.4% shares.
This evening, we spoke with BSI's CEO, Joey Montalvo, and via phone, he told us that not only are the bills paid off, BSI now has cash in hand.
Here's what Montalvo told us about the current make-up of the shares of the company:
Daniel Ortiz "There is a lot of speculation and fear mongering that has been broadcasted to the public. Sir, being intimately involved somewhat with the deal and knowing the partners from ASR - what would you be able to say to try to allay some of those fears?"
Joey Montalvo (via phone), CEO - BSI "I think the only fears that you may be referring to were those that were brought up by the cane farmers that they perhaps feel that they are going to be displaced. Nothing could be farther the truth - the cane farmers were given a presentation by ASR, first of all in securing a strategic partner BSI was basically look at the survival of the industry and survival of the industry means they need to promote expansion, improve the returns and so all industry stakeholders must remain committed for this long term goal."
"They need to continue to work together to meet the challenges of competing in a very competitive global environment."
"In terms of the field sector - ASR recognizes the need to boast cane farmer production and their plans for the provision of extension services to cane farmers, identifying financing for them, providing advice on best farm management practices and so forth."
In relation to the allaying of fears with this corporate takeover, Montalvo assured us that ASR fully understands the economic and national implications of their majority shareholding in BSI.
In a joint press release issued on Wednesday evening, BSI and ASR announced that all transactions were complete and ASR is now the majority shareholder of the Belize Sugar Industry with 78.6% of the shares. The remaining 21.4% of the shares remain to the existing shareholders of BSI and BSI Employee Holdings Limited. According to the press release, all debts owed by BSI have now been paid off to ING and the Government of Belize.
That major announcement comes just in time for the start of the 2012/2013 Sugar Cane Crop Season. It is said that it will be a very interesting season with payment for Sugar Cane delivered by BSI’s quota will yield far more revenue than those of the cane farmers. This is said by industry experts due to the special tax exceptions awarded to ASR by the Government of Belize; exceptions that have not been extended to the Cane Farmer placing them at an disadvantage.
Well, it’ll be a year where cane farmers will have to explore every other avenue to make this sugar cane crop season a profitable one for them. One of the avenues that will be beneficial to cane farmers is that of the Sugar Cane Replanting Program. According to CEO of Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, Oscar Alonzo, the replanting program will be in conjunction with the Development Finance Agency, DFC, with funds obtained from the European Union.
Oscar Alonzo, CEO BSCFA
“Les hemos invitado para que nos acompañen en estas reuniones que estamos teniendo con la sucursales para que de los detalles y los procedimientos para le canero pueda tener el acceso a este lanzamiento y hemos dado una ideas a ellos a como se pudiera manejar para si tenga la mayor efectividad en como da la producción de la cana. Tenemos hasta el ano 2016 para poder implementar y ya el ano pasado ya se había invertido como 3 millones de dólares por gobierno y claro hay la meta de llegar a 2 millones de toneladas entonces hay un gran necesidad de recursos que el canero tendría que invertir, estamos hablando como 10 mil acres de cana cada ano para poder asegurar si podríamos llegar a eso porque la cosa no es solo de sembrar nuevas parcelas es tratar de renovar las parcelas que tenemos para aumentar la productividad de esas parcelas.”
Alonzo stated that last year’s statistics show that 5, 331 Cane Farmers were registered with the Association and believes that the only way this statistic will increase is by more youth becoming involved in the industry.
Oscar Alonzo, CEO BSCFA
“Los jóvenes tienen que interesarse de esta industria, porque si ellos no les interesa se va ir disminuyendo y eso les va dar mas razón para que otros de afuera entren y se aprovechen de esta oportunidad. Que consulten organizaciones como DFC, el ministerio de agricultura para ver como se pueden integrar en esto porque esto ya presenta un futuro que tiene mucho beneficios que se puede lograr y asegurar que la juventud de ahora ya pueda tener un tipo de empleo, es cierto de que los jóvenes de hoy en día no les encanta mucho el campo, pero hay que ver porque ahora si vale regresar al campo porque si va a ver un poco de rendimiento y hay que ver como un puede ir a conseguir mas ingreso.”
This year the Annual Cane Farmers General Meeting will be held on November 25th at Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico.
Belize Sugar Industries Group
Information Bulletin to all Employees
BSI Group Executive Management Team
The ASR transaction is now complete and we are now engaged in aligning BSI’s operational and
business systems with those of ASR. As part of this process the BSI Group executive
management team’s roles are as follows:-
Following the change in shareholder Board representation, Joey Montalvo has relinquished
the title of Managing Director but will continue as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the BSI
Group. He is responsible for the leadership and management of the BSI Group and for
implementation of the overall organization’s strategy and the policies of the Board.
Paul Hough formerly titled Group General Manager becomes the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of
the BSI Group. The COO is responsible for all aspects of the BSI Group operations covering field,
factory and power plant and will continue to provide close support to the CEO. The COO will
monitor and seek ways to improve the performance of the Group and will ensure that operational
targets are achieved. The COO is also responsible for BSI’s sugar and molasses logistic operations
and for the management and development of Human Resources, Information Technology and
Safety Health and Environment.
Belizario Carballo, formerly Deputy General Manager and Finance Director, is now the Chief
Financial Officer (CFO) of the BSI Group. He is responsible for the Group’s financial, marketing,
internal auditing and corporate matters and will take a lead role in industrial relations and public
relations. The CFO will be a focal point for contact with external agencies including customers,
cane farmers, government and non-government organizations. The CFO will provide human
resources and information technology support services to the COO.
The Citrus industry is the number one income earner in the agribusiness sector and second only to petroleum as an industry. But tonight the twenty two percent contribution that citrus makes to Belize’s export earnings is in serious jeopardy because of infighting. It is the kind of infighting that sees the country’s largest representative of citrus growers as odds with its one processing company, the Citrus Products of Belize Limited and a smaller, relatively new comer to the industry Belize Citrus Mutual. It is a tangled mess, and today in Belmopan, the Citrus Growers Association hosted a press conference to announce the launch of its offensive designed to restore normalcy to an industry which key stakeholders say is in controlled chaos. To put the current crisis in perspective, it all started when the Citrus Products of Belize Limited went ahead and opened its processing facility last week to receive fruits, without first following the prescribed protocols, such as the submission of price formulas to the CGA. The CGA objected and instead proposed a delay in the opening of the factory to allow for the price submissions and discussions of the proposed prices. But it all fell on deaf ears as of last week some growers have been delivering fruits. Today at the CGA press conference, a call was made to right what is clearly wrong and move forward.
The litany of complaints outlined by the CGA at its press conference today includes allegations of corruption; collusion and a disregard for established rules governing the Citrus industry. That is why the CGA is holding a demonstration on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, to put the spotlight squarely on the crisis in the citrus industry. It is at the same time, calling on the government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow to intervene to end the chaos and restore normalcy to the multi-million dollar citrus industry. Eccleston Irving is the Chairman of CGA’s Committee of Management.
The Citrus Growers Association is asking for a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture Gaspar Vega on Wednesday in Pomona village, Stann Creek to discuss the current crisis and to advise him on the way forward. And the Citrus Growers are not happy with the Chairman of the Citrus Control Board, Chief Executive Officer Jose Alpuche, accusing him of not properly advising the Minister of Agriculture on this vital issue.
Chief Executive Officer of the CGA Henry Anderson says that the Association is committed to the development of industry and is looking forward to improvements that will bring benefits to all stakeholders as part of its vision and mission on the way forward.
Regarding the acceptance of fruits for processing, CGA officials say there has been erroneous information in circulation, which is threatening to destabilize the industry, including a statement issued last week by Belize Citrus Mutual that growers did not need a permit to deliver fruits to the factory.
The Citrus Growers Association of Belize demonstration is scheduled to start at ten o’clock on Tuesday morning from in front of the football field in Pomona and proceeding to in front of CPBL’s offices.