Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 21st 2016 Contents A5
Tuesday, June 21, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
VALDEEN SHEARS NEPTUNE
The sole investor to have
expressed an interest in purchasing
the now defunct ArcelorMittal steel
plant at Point Lisas may be on the
verge of pulling out.
In March, management shuttered
the plant, as steel tycoon Lakshmi
Mittal announced a pullout and sent
home more than 600 workers.
The prospective buyers are being
represented by an entity called New
Era Business Services. They told the
T&T Guardian that they were willing
to spend as much as $100 million in
acquiring the facility.
In an interview with the T&T
Guardian, the representative disclosed
that the firm is based in Charlieville,
Chagauanas, while "the investors are
regional, with an international reach."
Even as their identity remains
unknown, they have maintained their
interest and rapport with the Steel
Workers Union of Trinidad and Toba-
go (SWUTT) since the start of the
However, the representative said
some aspects of the ongoing liqui-
dation process were giving them sec-
"We and the union were assured
that the plant would be sold as a
whole entity and not stripped. But
now we are seeing where properties
are being placed on the public market
for sale. It raises questions about the
integrity of the entire process," stated
This includes, so far, the Good-
wood Park house in which Mittal
lived when in the country, along with
two other executive residential houses
owned by the company, as well as
a corporate box at the Queen s Park
When asked if they would con-
sider bidding on these properties,
the spokesperson stated that the
investors had indicated from the start
that they would only tender for a
"The investors are not prepared
to take part in any part packaging.
It was always understood to be a
packaged deal. Is this not stripping
the company?" he queried.
Liquidator Christopher Kelshall,
in a telephone interview, responded
by stating that while the properties
were all listed in the auditor s report
as company assets, he had a duty to
the owners (Mittal) to look after the
sale of surplus assets.
"Any investor would get a com-
pletely functioning plant. In due
course they will be invited to express
interest, and get a package to bid
on," stated Kelshall.
He maintained, though, that the
properties were unoccupied.
Market conditions unchanged
The Mittal family bailed out of
Trinidad and Tobago in the face of
a deep slump in global steel prices,
caused by oversupply from China.
Market conditions are the same for
the potential new investor as they
were for the previous owners. How
can they make it work?
"We did our feasibility study and
Mittal did not tap into the Caribbean
market, those for diversified steel,
specialised high-end and by-prod-
ucts," the representative stated.
"This is one of the reasons we are
not daunted by the production of
cheap steel by the Chinese," he
The greater incentive, though, is
the DR-3 machine located on the
site, which supports the production
of specialised steel and by-products.
The machine is the only one of
its kind in the Western hemisphere
and ensures the viability of the plant
to compete easily in the steel mar-
ket.Rumours the machine may be
shipped back overseas have raised a
red flag for the investors, said their
"What that machine can do is
beyond what any competition can
do on this side of the world. We
hope it is not stripped and sent back
to its parent company," he stated.
They are even considering acquir-
ing the recently defunct Centrin
Plant, where over 200 workers lost
their jobs. That plant depended heav-
ily on by-products from the Point
Lisas steel plant for its sustainabil-
ity.The investors, he said, may take
their business and monies to neigh-
bouring Suriname or Guyana.
That aside, if all goes well, the
investors intend to set up shop within
months of purchasing, with a couple
months to purge the plant and a fur-
ther three months incubation period,
then moving to full operational stan-
As for its workforce, the business
consultant said, the investors main-
tained a rapport with the union to
ensure they would have the necessary
They are also prepared to engage
in re-educating and redeploying
where necessary, he said.
He noted that one of Mittal s
biggest disadvantages, which had
forced him to close shop here and
in other countries, was the cost of
However, the investors are pre-
pared to offer workers what he
described as "reasonable" salaries
along with the benefits of profit
sharing and stock options.
"They will now be part of the
ownership of the company/plant,"
While they have anticipated fur-
ther expenditure of up to $100 mil-
lion, they are confident that this will
come from projected profits.
The representative stated they had
no intention of inheriting a debt,
one of the conditions for purchase
that the previous owners had put to
Initially, Government had been
offered the plant for just $1, while
the plant was said to have incurred
a $1.3 billion debt.
According to the investor, the debt
figure had been revised and had
increased significantly to the tune of
The only advantage to liquidation,
he explained, is that you do not
inherit the company s debt. However,
the representative said he is yet to
sit down and discuss the issue with
anyone in Government.
As prospective new owners eye steel plant...
Potential investor queries
The closed Arcelor Mittal plant in Couva. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
Following the uncompromising
message to both the government
and opposition from JUTM Pres-
ident Ancel Roget, two analysts
been weighing up what it means.
Placing both political parties on
notice that he was prepared to take
action to improve the lot of his
workers, Roget had called on the
Government to inject some
TT$5.7billion into the economy to
provide job relief to workers suf-
fering under the economic down-
turn. He suggested disbursement
of $1.2billion for food production,
$1.5 billion each for manufacturing
for export, energy and infrastruc-
Economist and former minister
Mary King said Roget is making
the same mistake as the Govern-
ment in focussing only on capital.
"Can we be globally competitive
in what we do by simply providing
local jobs", she asks.
"Less and less jobs per dollar
invested are created as the import-
ed technology becomes more and
more automated? In other words,
can we compete in the world mar-
ket with other economies that cre-
ate and continue to improve the
technologies we have to import?"
"Simply allocating our limited
capital to production enterprises
leaves us less competitive and
hence a country of lower income,
lower living conditions", King
Political analyst Dr Bishnu
Ragoonath says government must
be more transparent in its dealings
with workers, to remove any doubt
as to their actions and the possible
Roget had called on Prime Min-
ister Dr Keith Rowley to reign in
"errant" ministers and honour the
terms of the Memorandum of
Understanding signed with the
PNM prior to the 2015 general elec-
tion, adding that certain ministers
were acting as "laws unto them-
selves" in not sticking to agree-
The JTUM leader cited Finance
Minister Colm Imbert s decision
to pay workers 50 per cent of out-
standing back pay by the end of
this month with the rest being
offered in bonds, as one example.
Ragoonath said both men need-
ed to thrash out the matter.
King meanwhile is arguing for
modernised job market which "will
allow this country to develop the
required specialised skills via the
establishment of the related R&D
centres, as it immediately earns
some foreign exchange."
"A highly skilled workforce is a
guarantee of sustainable employ-
ment, one that can survive creative
destruction or trauma of the likes
of Arcelor Mittal", she said.
Economic analysts react to Roget's tough message
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