Sale of St. Maarten shares in UTS almost completed

PHILIPSBURG--The sale of St. Maarten’s shares in United Telecommunications Services (UTS) is almost completed, Finance Minister Perry Geerlings said on Wednesday.
 
“The sale of UTS is in the closing stages,” Geerlings said when asked for an update. He said parties had been aiming to sign the necessary documents by this Friday. “The Minister of TEATT [Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications, Stuart Johnson – Ed.] signed a ministerial decree yesterday [Tuesday], that was necessary to inform the buyers that there are no outstanding debts between UTS and our Bureau Telecom and Post. That was still a lengthy process because there were some outstanding debts, but not sure that they can be validated, because these debts stem from the former Netherlands Antilles’ transition period to Country St. Maarten. So that is still being worked out.”
 
Geerlings said also that Member of Parliament (MP) Rolando Brison’s initiative law authorising government to undertake the sale of St. Maarten’s shares in UTS also had to go through a legal process including being sent to Governor Eugene Holiday for signing to formalise the law. “That is still at the Governor. Hopefully we will get that back today or tomorrow [Wednesday or Thursday].
 
“I am not sure if we are going to meet the Friday date that we have set for parties involved. If not, then we are probably going to close it in the first week of September, but we are in the final stages,” Geerlings said.
 
St. Maarten holds 12.5 per cent shares in UTS, while Curaçao as majority shareholder holds 87.5 per cent.
 
Curaçao has already completed the sale of its UTS shares to Cable and Wireless Communications’ parent company Liberty Latin America. The June 1 deadline for the sale of St. Maarten’s shares has already passed, but after conversation with the buyer some time was granted to St. Maarten.
 
Geerlings had said during the debate of the 2019 budget that the proceeds from the sale would amount to some NAf. 21 million and from the proceeds, government intended to use NAf. 12 million to reduce its arrears towards the TelEm Group, “as strongly suggested” based on the Kingdom Instruction of 2015. Additionally, some NAf. 8 million will be used to offset expenses for the “yet unknown financial effects of repairing the salary constraints of our own Police Force, as far as this is necessary, retroactive.”
 
The NAf. 1 million remaining can be used to alleviate social needs of residents and for projects at schools such as a school food programme, or elsewhere, the minister had said at the time. Still expected are the possible proceeds of the sale of the only UTS subsidiary that is not included in the current sale agreement (Blue Nap).
 
The Daily Herald

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