When it comes to Belize's industries, all eyes have been on the sugar industry up north in recent months with the new ownership of that company. Not much has been in the media lately on the issue of citrus in the south but we do have a report on CPBL tonight.
For 2009 and 2010, CPBL posted back to back years of major loss. They lost 11.2 million in 2009 and 11 million in 2010. This past Friday, CPBL held its annual shareholders meeting to declare a profit of 4.7 million dollars for 2011. In those previous years when there was no profit, there was no representative from Banks Holdings ltd, the minority shareholder. But last Friday, Richard Cozier, of Banks Holdings flew in to attend the meeting and PlusTV and Amnadala were also invited by the citrus growers association, the majority shareholders of CPBL, to attend the meeting. That meeting lasted seven hours and could best be described as hostile and confrontational, symptomatic of the strained relationship between the Belize citrus growers investment company Ltd, the majority shareholders and Banks holdings Ltd, the minority shareholders. The CPBL board, which is comprised of nine directors, does not have a sitting chairman, a glaring abnormality for a multimillion dollar industry. A sitting chairman, Julian Murillo, tried to bridge the gap between board members with little success. While CPBL is profitable, several of its subsidiaries such as its cogeneration project, its value added Caribbean Pride Juice, and its Bagass feed, continue to lose millions of dollars annually. According to the majority shareholders, they are yet to a see a report on CPBL which was requested by First Caribbean International Bank and done by Price Waterhouse Cooper for a very pricey fee of one hundred and ninety thousand US dollars. The shareholders are demanding to see the report to help them make decisions on behalf of the company. Majority shareholders say that First Caribbean is refusing to let them see the review. Of note is the fact that a First Caribbean director, Sir Alan Fields, also sits on the board for the minority shareholder banks Holdings. So majority shareholders are complaining that the minority shareholders can see the report but the majority shareholders have not been able to see it while the subsidiaries continue to lose money. Now, if you recall, Henry Canton was fired as the CEO of CPBL by the Majority shareholders in December of 2010. But he has not gone anywhere since the minority shareholders wanted him to remain. So the company does not have a chairman or a CEO, but Canton has managed to secure a 3.25 million dollar loan from CPBL, interest free, and with no fixed date for repayment. The CPBL interest free loan to Canton is to purchase a CPBL asset, Hummingbird Citrus Ltd.
So far, no payment has been made back towards that loan. In a future broadcast, we will show you how the administrative nightmare at CPBL is having an adverse effect on Belize's orange juice distribution in the Caribbean and the world while the company is importing a new beer, Banks Beer!