Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 30th 2013 Contents BG8 | NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MAY 2013 • WEEK FIVE
The two-day visit of United States Vice
President Joe Biden to T&T on Monday and
Tuesday was "opportune" for the business
world, the chief operating officer of the coun-
try's largest non-energy conglomerate investor
"The US Vice President's visit comes at an
opportune moment for us to do a couple of
things," said ANSA McAL's Gerry Brooks on
Tuesday at the Tatil building in Port-of-Spain.
He said it is firstly an opportunity "to take a
look at crime and crime initiatives from an
intelligence standpoint, from a training per-
spective and also from an equipment perspec-
Brooks recalled that the US government
invested heavily in Mexico in these areas.
He said the second area that makes the
T&T-US discussion important right now is
energy, and the impact of the US shale gas
discoveries, and that country's potential as a
net gas exporter.
"We also have to resolve the issue of gas
going to our downstream producers because
we still have too many plants which are starved
of gas," he said.
Brooks said T&T is losing about between
eight and nine per cent of plant efficiency,
which translates to billions of dollars in foreign
He said the third reason the US-T&T dis-
cussion is important is the effectiveness of
the trade agreement now in effect.
"How do we explore the Caribbean Basin
Initiative (CBI) trade agreement to ensure we
have more products which are able to enter
US space at more cost-effective rates from a
duty standpoint?" he asked.
Brooks said there's a need for the country's
Ministry of Health to collaborate with the US
Food and Drugs Administration.
He said the area of information and com-
munications technology (ICT) is also important
to the relationship.
"How do we ensure that, as the economy
converts into a knowledge-based economy,
that we have the right arrangements with the
US in terms of learning, and technical training
in ICT; to ensure that we have a game changing
capacity in education?" he asked. "It's an
important visit. It's an important time for
constructive dialogue, for us to move the coun-
Switching to the ANSA McAL Group's per-
formance, Brooks said he sees strong growth
going forward, building on the ten per cent
increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2013.
"Our first quarter (2013) revenue is at $1.439
billion, up ten per cent, so that's very healthy,"
Asked what is driving the growth the Group
is seeing, Brooks said: "All of our sectors are
driving growth and that is the result of a very
deliberate strategy in 2012 and 2011. In our
distribution business, we invested in ware-
housing. We invested in cold storage, so that
has allowed us to win new products, including
Black Canyon beef, Angus beef, and some new
He said ANSA McAL invested heavily in
new technology, which allows it "to engage
customers and the retail trade far more effec-
He said the ANSA McAL Group is "the
largest single investor in T&T in the non-
He said the Group is "seeing growth in new
car sales" too, including its luxury lines, namely
"We made a deliberate decision to invest in
BMW and that has been rewarded with cus-
tomer support and customer loyalty, so we've
seen significant growth there, enhancing and
reinforcing our position in the luxury segment,
where we are the number one player."
Asked if the improved car sales of BMWs
is a sign of improved consumer confidence,
Brooks said: "I think there is a still a way to
go in terms of consumer confidence. When
you look at the small and medium enterprise
(SME) sector, that sector is now responsible
for about 30 per cent of gross domestic prod-
uct. That's exciting and that's good because
that's where you're going to get employment
coming from, but we still have to work on
He said ANSA McAL has "also invested in
the customer service experience, improving
our showrooms. Now we've added to that
things, like master technician training to ensure
that when you bring your vehicle in, all of the
digital (features) and automation that come
with the vehicle are also there."
Another area which is "growing quite hand-
somely is our beverage, distribution and pack-
aging line," he said. "We are winning more
markets from an export standpoint, which is
one of our platforms of growth, and we are
also, brand by brand, investing in marketing
The strategy is to get the right product,
support it well from a marketing perspective,
and build brands locally and regionally," Brooks
"A brand that's doing very nicely is Carib
Pilsner Light. That continues to enjoy dou-
ble-digit growth. Another brand that is growing
regionally and which has us extremely excited,
is our Stag brand, which is growing in the
Barbados market, which is growing in the
Guyana market, which has a very strong posi-
tion in the Trinidad market, and which is
growing in other regional markets as well."
On the subject of economic confidence,
Brooks said "there are a couple of things affect-
ing confidence" including "corruption, and
the spectre and the perception of corruption.
We have got to get this off the table."
On the positive side, he said, "Something
which has helped confidence is the way we've
dealt with the Clico Investment Fund (Republic
Bank-backed), and we've put that one side.
It's on the exchange. It has strengthened the
T&T Stock Exchange, in terms of offerings;
and the FCB offering will also strengthen con-
He said an area where the country can
improve is in governance.
"There's got to be some governance, in my
view, respectfully, and better performance in
the state enterprise sector," Brooks said.
ANSA McAL COO on energy, crime:
Biden's visit opportune
Gerry Brooks, chief
operating officer, ANSA
United States Vice-President Joe
Biden signs the visitors' book at the
Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's, on
Tuesday, while Prime Minister Kamla
Persad-Bissessar looks on.
PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
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