Caribbean loses Sagicor

Central Bank of Barbados Governor, Cleviston Haynes.
Central Bank of Barbados Governor, Cleviston Haynes.
Central Bank of Barbados Governor, Cleviston Haynes.

A Caribbean company that originated in Barbados more than 100 years ago and grew to have a presence in many regional territories is being sold to a Canadian concern for just over half-a-billion dollars.

The sale for $536 million has been announced of the company that started in Barbados in 1849 as Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Society and moved on to open branches St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Kitts, Antigua, Montserrat, Jamaica and Guyana then transformed from single-line life insurance company to a financial services regional group and further expanding into the international financial services market.

The buyer is Alignvest, a special purpose Canadian corporation that links financial asset managers, and the transaction is expected to close within the second quarter of next year.

There are no signs that there will be objections to the sale from the regulators in Bermuda, where Sagicor is now headquartered.

In this arrangement Sagicor will continue to operate in its Caribbean and Latin American and US markets under the current name.

This acquisition carries a relation to the Scotiabank sell out in many territories as reported by Caribbean Life one week ago because prior to its agreement to be bought out by Alignvest, Sagicor had struck a 20-year insurance-distribution deal with Scotiabank in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Though Barbadians see the sale as a lost of its prized conglomerate to a Canadian entity, the fact is that Sagicor stopped being a Barbados domiciled company since 2016 when management packed up its head office operations and left for Bermuda in response to the continuous financial credit rating downgrades that Barbados was enduring at the time under the previous government.

The company complained that because of the downgrades the island had lost its investment grade and this affected the firm’s ability to profitably trade internationally.

The irony is that Sagicor’s sale announced at the end of November comes at a time when Barbados has had its first international credit rating upgrade in 10 years and government just completed radically changing its tax structure, making the island compliant with international demands and probably more attractive to offshore businesses than other jurisdictions.

For this reason Central Bank of Barbados Governor, Cleviston Haynes, said of the change in ownership of the company, “I think this is perhaps a slightly unfortunate development.”

This sale of what was once a premier Barbados company comes mere months after another conglomerate, SOL Investments, with a reach over the Caribbean was sold to Canadians.

SOL Investments, that has a footprint spanning across the region is about to change hands, ceded controlling ownership to a Canadian concern for US$1.21 billion.

Though it will retain day-to-day administrative responsibility over 23 enterprises that it owned, SOL’s sale, which is pending Barbados regulatory confirmation, means that control of this Caribbean company goes to Canada-based Parkland Fuel Corp.

Built up by entrepreneur Barbadian Kyffin Simpson, SOL is now regarded as a regional fuel processing and supply and giant, touching almost all territories of the Caribbean.

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