Florida, USA-based energy company WRB Enterprises Inc says it will sell its 50 per cent ownership of Grenada Electricity Services Ltd (Grenlec) to the Government of that island and, thereafter, no longer be a part of the day-to-day operation of the utility company.
In a letter to Grenlec employees dated December 24, 2020, President of WRB Enterprises G Robert Blanchard informed employees that “subsequent to the ruling of the ICSID (International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes) arbitration tribunal, WRB has entered into a settlement agreement…under which we are selling our shares in Grenlec to the Government”.
He added that while his company wish to continue its business pursuits in Grenada, “the Government would prefer to work with someone besides WRB in the future”. Even though WRB has managed Grenlec for the past 26 years, Blanchard admitted that the Florida-based company could impede the progress and future prosperity of the local utility provider.
At the same time, the president apologised to employees of the Grenadian utility company for not addressing them on a face-to-face basis, since that would not be possible due to coronavirus restrictions. He also commended them for their dedication, which has contributed to Grenlec earning the reputation of one of the Caribbean’s “best-run utilities”.
In the meantime, Grenada’s main Opposition party, National Democratic Congress, has raised concern about the Government’s plans to strike a deal with another foreign company.
According to a statement from the NDC, “The nation is aware that the Government of Grenada lost the case against WRB with respect to the repurchase of the Grenlec shares.”
It continued: “The arbitration tribunal awarded over $200 million to WRB, the main shareholder in Grenlec. In the face of defeat, the Government has engaged in discussions with some unknown foreign interests to raise money to repurchase the shares”.
Moreover, the Opposition contends that Bowen — the former minister of infrastructure and implementation and current minister of finance — had promised that Grenadian citizens would have the opportunity to purchase shares in the utility company.
The Opposition said, too, that the Government of Grenada has made an about-turn by refusing to discuss the matter and, rather, to pursue “another secret deal with a non-Grenadian interest to purchase shares”.
As a result, the NDC has called on the Dr Keith Mitchell Administration to handle issues surrounding Grenlec in a transparent manner.
“Extensive national consultation must be held, and any proposed deal should be debated in and approved by Parliament before it is finalised,” the statement from the NDC asserted.
Furthermore, the Opposition highlighted that when, as the ruling party, it engaged with WRB to acquire a 50 per cent stake in Grenlec, it did so in a public and transparent manner that included national consultation and invitations to bid. Additionally, the then-Government tabled the agreement in Parliament, embedding it into the Electricity Supply Act of 1994.
“Now that WRB has brought us from the days of load shedding and blackouts under Bowen, to a consistent and reliable supply of electricity, it appears that the NNP has struck a secret deal in the dead of night…” the NDC emphasised.
The party added that since Grenlec is a national asset, any move to sell majority ownership of the utility company should be subject to national scrutiny.