NASSAU, Bahamas – The stage is set for the commencement of the privatisation of Bahamas Telecommunications Company, after the regulatory structure is approved and due diligence completed by the privatisation committee, Prime Minister the Rt Hon Hubert Ingraham has confirmed.

In a communication to the House of Assembly June 30, the Prime Minister said interested parties would be invited to enter a pre-qualification process in order to be considered as potential strategic partners.

“This process is designed to allow the Government to determine which potential partners are appropriate from a strategic as well as a financial standpoint,” he said.

“Those who pre-qualify will then be invited to participate in a formal due diligence exercise, ultimately resulting in an economic bidding process for the 51 percent stake in BTC.”

In the coming weeks, he said the government would launch a formal sale process relating to 51 percent of the ownership of BTC.

In April this year, the Government introduced in Parliament three Bills aimed at “a modern, transparent regulatory framework” for the communications sector in the Bahamas.

The Communications Bill, the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) Bill and the Utilities Appeal Tribunal (UAT) Bill were debated and passed in early May.

“As the Government continues to work towards the privatisation of BTC and the liberalisation of the Bahamas’ electronic communications sector, this regulatory reform was a critical step towards ensuring that international best practices standards are met, while also enhancing the value proposition to potential partners for BTC,” the Prime Minister said.

With UCRA in place as an independent regulator to promote good business practices and foster a competitive environment, the new regulatory regime will seek to increase investor and consumer confidence, he explained.

“Now that the new regulatory structure is approved and all other due diligence largely completed by the Privatisation Committee and its team of advisors, the stage is set for the commencement of the privatisation process,” the Prime Minister said.

Any potential strategic partner “must be a well-resourced entity or consortium with established credentials in the telecommunications industry that can provide the company with growth opportunities and position BTC for long-term success.

“The strategy of those interested parties must also be aligned with the key objectives of the Government, who will continue to hold a 49 percent ownership stake in the company,” he said.

The Government is “committed to the execution of an efficient process” to be completed within a relatively short time, he said.

He said the new regulatory structure and liberalised market are expected to drive growth in telecommunications, which will yield significant positive economic benefits for the Bahamas including:

• job creation, specifically in the areas of telecommunications infrastructure development and maintenance, construction, retail distribution, and real estate development;
• increased domestic and foreign investment;
• an enhanced tourism product; and,
• a modernised infrastructure for business

“To encourage healthy competition, fixed line telecommunications services, cable and IPTV and internet services will be liberalised immediately upon coming into force of the Communications Act.

“Mobile services will be liberalised two years following the privatisation of BTC,” the Prime Minister said.