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.
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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, 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, 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.”
“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.
“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, 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.”
“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.
“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.