Friday, July 25, 2008

Shareholders chide board for C&WJ losses

Published: Friday July 25, 2008

Shareholders attending Cable and Wireless Jamaica's 21st annual general meeting (AGM) stopped short of blaming the board of directors and management team for not intervening sooner to stem losses at the firm.

The company in a year accumulated $2 billion of losses, wiping out $2 billion of profit in 2006, and sparking concerns about the company's future here by investors.

One particular shareholder said at the meeting that he had expected the company to announce its exit from Jamaica after news that C&WJ's parent company, C&W plc was disappointed with its performance.

"I came here expecting to attend the funeral of Cable and Wireless Jamaica," said the shareholder.

The AGM was held on Wednesday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston.

Over its last financial year ending March 31, 2007 Cable and Wire Jamaica (C&WJ) had to write-down $5.14 billion from impaired assets.

The company's new president Phil Green said in May that the company had written off its mobile infrastructure and would be rebuilding that side of the business.

C&WJ suffered a net loss of $4.19 billion some of which was due to unprofitable product offerings, according to Green, who took over the company in August, replacing Rodney Davis.

Bad year

Green, who is also a member of the board, on Wednesday attempted to allay shareholder concerns, by being frank but reassuring.

"It was a bad year but we caught it in time," he said.

"We fixed it and we had a better half year."

But the meeting was not so easily appeased, and shareholders continued to press the board on how it allowed the company's spending to gallop.

"We detected the problem in May," said chairman Leonard de Barros in defence.

London moved swiftly after that, he said, to correct it.

Three months later, Davis was out, and Green was in.

His immediate task was to review products, contracts and systems. In 10 months, he has reshaped the C&WJ stores into customer-focused operations, revised the Homefone product, negotiated two corporate contracts worth $900 million, done away with the Anyone mobile plan, and is in the process of planning out a project to upgrade the company's cellular network to 3G capability.


In the periods ahead, the focus will turn to cost-cutting.

"Lowering our expenses is our main objective this year," said the chief financial officer Jorge Diaz adding that 40 per cent of the company's expenses is employee-related in a hint at further redundancies.

Diaz said C&WJ was predicting a profit this year.

Susan Gordon
Jamaica Gleaner

No comments: