REJECTED by Government three times in the past year, Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Ltd vows to fight back to acquire and operate the Guaracara refinery.
“The country will lose a glorious opportunity if we fold and go,” Ancel Roget, president general of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) and Patriotic’s chairman, said on Friday.
He spoke at a news conference at the OWTU’s Paramount Building, San Fernando, one day after Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced Government would no longer entertain Patriotic’s offer.
Roget did not give details of what the union or the company planned to do. He restated Patriotic’s projections include a payment of US$500 million, which would retire Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd (TPHL)’s debt at a 10 per cent interest over a six-year period and at the same time, cause TPHL to attract more favourable credit rating. He said Patriotic will pay approximately US$75-to-$100 million annually in taxes, as the company expects it could make an annual US$200 million profit. Sustainable jobs of around 4,500 are also anticipated.
Roget sought to debunk the grounds on which Imbert offered for rejecting the company’s offer.
He said the money to finance and operate the refinery has never been in dispute. He said the impression Imbert gave that, “Government would have to fork out some US$700-hard-earned, hard-to-get- millions to get this deal though,” was erroneous. He denied Patriotic would get the state assets for free and its financiers could transfer it to a third party.
Roget said because of the lien, the financiers wanted something to hold on to until those assets were free. He said Patriotic was in its current position because it accepted Government’s officer of a 10-year period to repay and a three-year moratorium, instead of the initial upfront payment of US$700 million.
“We were walked down a road, courted down a road with a proposal that could not stand.”
Roget said Patriotic would not have had the backings of two top financial institutions – Credit Suisse and Unions Bank of Switzerland (UBS) – if its proposal was not sound.
He said that the Government refused to meet with Patriotic or the banks made them believe the process, “was just a formality we would go through over and over and.” “We would just pass through a process and then the minister would come in a press conference and give a one-sided view of what happened.”
He said Imbert, by his own admission on Thursday, said he had not looked at Patriotic’s proposal but instead relied on the findings of “technocrats” for such a complex and large investment.
He questioned the competence at the ministry to do a complex analysis of the proposal, but did not commit to an independent team reviewing the proposal when asked.
Roget said he does not believe Patriotic’s proposal was fairly treated and believed government was conducting parallel negotiations with other interests – a claim which the government has consistently denied.
Pointing out that in this seller’s market where refineries are shutting down all over the world, he said nobody will be committing to what Patriotic has.
“Perhaps the stage, perhaps, lights, camera, action, we might have been set up just to accommodate that.
“Look out to see what are the plans that they (government) are going to unfold,” he warned.