Union Calls for Independent Evaluation Following Rejection of Oil Bid

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Nov 2, CMC – Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd is calling on the Trinidad and Tobago government to allow for an independent evaluation of its proposals after the government last weekend announced that it had rejected the company’s proposals to purchase the refinery of the state-owned oil company, PETROTRIN.

“We believe it is an opportune time that we can call back in that evaluation committee to evaluate the latest proposal. It will be an objective approach to look through thoroughly, all the responses,” said President General of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget.

Government a few years ago, shut down the refinery  after the Keith Rowley administration said it had been losing billions of dollars annually over the years.

The Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd is owned by the union and in September, Prime Minister Rowley, in an interview with the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, said that Patriotic Technologies “made us the best offer and was selected (and) we are currently working out contractual arrangements on which the outcome will depend. They are close, but it’s not finalised”,

But as he delivered the TT$49.5 billion national budget to Parliament last month, Finance Minister Colm Imbert described the negotiations as “protracted” but also issued a warning.

He told legislators that the government’s deadline for the completion of this exercise is October 31, this year “and if agreement cannot be reached on a viable or practical contractual agreement by that time, after giving Patriotic all possible opportunities to finalise the terms of the agreement, the process will be brought to an end, and the government will consider other options for the sale of the refinery”.

Last week, the company said it had met the deadline, but last Saturday, Energy and Energy Industries Minister, Franklin Khan said “I regret to say that this final proposal does not address the outstanding issues that could lead to a contractual sign agreement, and that is the state of play as we speak”.

According to Khan, the government is committed to restarting the refinery with private capital injection mindful that it restarts and has significant and positive impacts on the economy, gross domestic product (GDP) and unemployment.

Roget told reporters he believes the ministerial committee did not have enough time to properly evaluate the latest proposal sent on Thursday.

“Given the deadline set by the Prime Minister that having regard to the proposal, it is our respectful view that they (ministerial team) did not afford themselves enough time to go through comprehensively all of the tenets of that proposal.

“Therefore, they would not have afforded themselves a proper response by the deadline,” he added.

Roget said that the company had satisfied all three issues, adding that “that offer addressed the challenge with their internal financing and the prioritisation of lien issues. We did not fold our arms or throw our hands in the air in despair.

“Because of the soundness of the work we have done since this acquisition process begun, we went back to access the financing to take care of the issue of prioritisation of the lien,” which Roget said is the hold that a financial institution would have on an asset.

He told reporters the company was also surprised at the rejection, recalling that after a meeting on October 21 with the ministerial committee to resolve the unique challenges, the company consulted with its international team.

“We engaged one of the top ten investment banks in the world. They found soundness with our proposal, and they agreed to support us,” Roget said, promising to reveal the names and other information about the international investors “at the appropriate time.”

Last year, the government said that it was granting Patriotic a three-year moratorium on the US$700 million purchase price and interest, and a further 10 years to pay the US$700 million it offered for the refinery.

The government had said that 77 bids were initially received which were narrowed down to 25 of which eight then submitted non-binding offers.

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