PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The former Chief Executive Officer CEO) of Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL), Dr. Rollin Bertrand, is calling on shareholders to reject a proposal to “hand control” of the cement plant to the Mexico-based company, CEMEX, regarded as one of the world’s largest building materials suppliers and cement producers.
In a letter published in the local media, Bertrand, who, along with other directors, was removed last year, said, it is now becoming clear as to why the board had been removed in August 2014.
“This had nothing to do with ‘performance’ but was really a thinly veiled plan to hand over control of TCL to CEMEX as was proposed by certain businessmen in 2002.
“Recent allegations in the media have exposed the major players and, no doubt, they are working assiduously to fulfil promises, made over a decade ago to have CEMEX control TCL,” he added.
Bertrand said “according to the current script”, the plan is to keep the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), the bargaining agents for the workers, “silent by agreeing to all their demands.”
Bertrand recalled, that in 2002, the OWTU, led by now Labour Minister Errol McLeod, “was a major obstacle to the removal of the 20 percent cap on shareholding, as McLeod managed to rally credit unions and pension plans to vote against the proposal.”
But Bertrand said “CEMEX and its supporters have removed the board and quickly settled all outstanding matters with the OWTU to keep them quiet while they execute their real plan, which is to take over the company.
“Once they take over TCL, they will execute their rationalization plan to the detriment of the TCL Group, but in favour of CEMEX’s regional agenda.”
Bertrand listed a number of other concerns, which he said shareholders should be worried about, including the possibility of CEMEX being able to acquire 50.5 percent, or as high as 58 percent, of TCL, which have operations in Barbados and Jamaica.
“CEMEX will then be required, under the takeover code, to make an offer to all shareholders at the right price (TT$1.90 cents), so shareholders will be left with the option of a persistently anaemic share price going forward…or to cash out at a low price.”
The former TCL senior official urged shareholders “to reject any proposal to remove the 20 percent shareholding, as well as any proposal for a rights issue with such a high level of dilution.”
Bertrand said that TCL is the “largest indigenous manufacturer in CARICOM (Caribbean Community) and can be managed by Caribbean people.
“We do not need to hand it over to the likes of CEMEX, who continue to struggle financially and have recorded losses since 2010,” Bertrand wrote.