September 18, 2020

CWC-Columbus heads East for talks over ECTEL concerns


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Colm-Delves-740From The Jamaica Gleaner

Cable & Wireless Communications () and Columbus International say they have already initiated discussions with regulators in four of six markets and will head next to and Grenada to meet with authorities there on their plans to merge.

Their joint statement came in response to concerns raised by Eastern Telecommunications Regulatory Authority ().

In a communique issued after the 16th Consultative Forum between representatives of the region’s five National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRCs) and the ECTEL directorate held in St Lucia on November 10-11, ECTEL said it feared the deal between the telecoms would reduce consumer choice and impact product pricing.

CWC and Columbus responded Friday saying: “Naturally, in any large deal relating to operations in 42 Latin American and Caribbean countries, there will be concerns in the six markets where overlapping operations exist.  We are committed to ensuring that customer choice and competition are promoted by our transaction.”

CWC is buying Columbus for US$3.035 billion, including debt, and plans to merge the operations.

In ECTEL’s comment on the pending transaction it stated that after review of preliminary information available, and in consultation with the NTRCs, there was “deep concern that this development can potentially result in a negative impact on competition. It can also reduce choice by consumers, of both services and service providers. Since the advent of liberalisation, the prices of all telecommunications and ICT services have been significantly reduced due to competition in the region.”

Increased monopolisation

It added that, against the background of gains made over the previous 15 years under liberalisation, “increased monopolisation” may “create challenges for the entrance of new service providers”.

Under the current regulatory regime, “telecommunications licence holders, including Columbus and CWC, may be in breach of their licences, if they engage in activities which can have the effect of unfairly preventing, restricting or distorting competition,” said ECTEL. It promised to monitor the situation and advise the ministers of member states accordingly.

CWC and Columbus said that meetings had already begun with government representatives and regulators in St Vincent & the Grenadines, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados and would head to St Lucia and Grenada this week for similar talks.

“The facts are that this transaction will bolster competition against our larger competitor (that had also bid for the same Columbus assets); it will also increase customer choice and boost long-term investment and employment across the Caribbean. We firmly believe that this transaction will be received positively by our customers and governments alike,” the companies said in their joint statement.

The dig at the large competitor was aimed at Digicel Group.

A day before, Digicel had issued a statement citing ECTEL’s concerns, saying it welcomed the regulator’s intervention.

“… Each member state [has] an absolute right, morally as well as legally, to subject the proposed merger to a rigorous examination and approvals process in collaboration with their respective governments and relevant ministerial bodies,” said Digicel Group CEO Colm Delves.

Digicel was out with another statement on Friday urging the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago “to hold firm and withstand the severe pressure” from the merger partners for “rapid approval” of the deal, while noting that CWC owns 49 per cent of TSTT.

The press statement also appeared to be offering advice to the regulator.

“Under the concessions granted to Columbus in Trinidad, CWC/Columbus are obliged to seek regulatory approval from TATT to allow the change of control of Columbus’ operations in Trinidad and Tobago to CWC. TATT is obliged to consider the application and may insist on certain conditions being applied to the proposed transaction before the change of control is approved in Trinidad and Tobago,” the release said.

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Digicel welcomes intervention by regulatory authority into CWC/Columbus deal

From Caribbean360

Friday November 21, 2014, CMC – The Irish-owned telecommunications company, Digicel, has welcomed the announcement by the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ECTEL) regarding the merger between Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) and Columbus Communications Inc. (Columbus).

The St. Lucia-based ECTEL says the proposed agreement is a matter of significant public interest for the region deserving of rigorous regulatory attention and diligent review.

“We very much welcome this intervention by ECTEL and its expression of support for a rigorous regulatory examination of the proposed acquisition,” said Digicel chief executive officer, Colm Delves.

“Digicel was taken aback by the dismissive position of CWC/Columbus that the Governments of the ECTEL Member States and the established Regulatory Authorities in those countries were essentially powerless and had no right to oversee the proposed merger,” he added.

In a statement Wednesday, ECTEL announced its ‘deep concern’ in relation to the proposed transaction and the fact that the proposed merger could ‘potentially result in a negative impact on competition’ by “reducing choice for consumers of both services and service providers”.

ECTEL further noted that ‘increased monopolisation can erode the gains made by liberalisation’ and that the proposed merger raises significant issues in terms of potential breaches of licences by both CWC and Columbus which must be investigated thoroughly.

CWC and Columbus have already indicated that regulatory notifications and approvals would only be required in the United States, Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad.

But Digicel said it is “heartened to note that ECTEL and the local National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRCs) in each member state have signalled their determination to stand up and be counted in the face of such dismissive statements to the financial markets.

“Digicel confirms its willingness and desire to engage with ECTEL and the NTRCs in each member state such that a proper rigorous review of the telecommunications markets and the proposed acquisition can be undertaken.

“It is only on foot of such a review that any worthwhile assessment of the proposed acquisition on competition and consumer welfare can be conducted properly and responsibly,” the statement noted.

Delves, said the fact that CWC and Columbus “are seeking to essentially put a gun to the heads of the Caribbean regulatory authorities and Governments to approve their transaction on their terms and according to their own self-declared timetables is also a cause for alarm.

“Digicel believes that ECTEL and the NTRCs in each member state have an absolute right, morally as well as legally, to subject the proposed merger to a rigorous examination and approvals process in collaboration with their respective Governments and relevant ministerial bodies,” he added.


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Merger a plus for Caribbean, says C&W

lime0921-450x303From Nation news Barbados

The planned merger of Cable & Wireless and Columbus Communications in the Caribbean could well be a boon for accelerating the roll-out of broadband in Barbados and the wider region.

An analysis by Cable & Wireless says if its proposal to merge the regional operations of the two companies, which trade as LIME and Flow, respectively, is approved by the regulators, it could provide the best chance to improve the Caribbean’s communications infrastructure. The London-based company said the merger would result in an expansion of Internet access and “leading backhaul connections across the region that will help attract more foreign direct investment….”

Barbados already has 100 per cent basic telephone access and a higher average of cellphone usage. But broadband access, including fibre to the home and business remain a critical missing link. Government and industry watchers say broadband access is fundamental to economic growth.

An Inter-American Bank study published in 2012 by Antonio Zaballos and Ruben Lopez-Rivas reported that in Latin America and the Caribbean on average an increase in ten per cent broadband penetration created 67 016 jobs, an increase of 3.19 per cent of gross domestic product and a 2.61 per cent productivity increase. The International Telecommunications Union has also noted this direct co-relation between broadband access and economic and social development.

The Cable & Wireless analysis argued the proposed merger is better value for the consumer and the country, with a faster, better delivery of mobile, fixed, broadband and television services as well as quad play. Quad play refers to an offering of broadband, telephone, cellular and television services.

The company cited another benefit as strengthening LIME’s position as the second largest information and communication technology provider in the region.

It said Digicel is the region’s dominant player with more than double the subscribers of Cable & Wireless Caribbean and Columbus combined. This is in part due to its reported acquisition over the past ten years of more than 20 businesses which include television and telecommunication entities. (HH)

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