‘Only good news today from Colm’ | Local company

WHEN Finance Minister Colm Imbert takes to the podium this morning at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, he will have plenty of good news to announce.

It will highlight the strength of energy revenues for fiscal year 2022. These revenues were boosted by escalating global prices for natural gas, crude oil and T&T petrochemicals like ammonia, urea and methanol.

But he is likely to downplay the impact that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had on pushing oil prices to nearly $100 a barrel, natural gas prices to over $9 per unit and ammonia prices to three times the raw material price a year ago.

He will highlight the contribution of the non-energy sector to the country’s performance and take credit for having put in place a recovery plan during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is likely to point out that the country’s net official foreign reserves – which fell to a multi-year low of $6.56 billion in April 2020 – have recovered to $6.82 billion in July 2022.

In presenting the good news from the national economy, Mr. Imbert is unlikely to pay too much attention to the rate of unemployment and underemployment.

If he mentions the rate of inflation, he will stick to the official rate of 4.9% for June 2022, compared to June 2021, and ignore the Central Statistics Office report that food prices and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 7.8%. percent during this period.

Mr. Imbert will take personal credit that First Citizens’ additional public offering of shares was oversubscribed by 55.15%, attracting bids for a total of 16,865,007 common shares at a value of 843 $250,350, while 10,869,565 shares were available at a price of $50 per share.

It will not provide information on the oversubscription percentage due to non-T&T participation.

He is likely to provide updates on projects and proposals that have languished. But one of the updates that the Minister of Finance will be sure to give to the people today concerns NIF 2.

The NIF is the National Investment Fund, first issued in August 2018, when the government issued bonds worth $4 billion in three tranches:

• $1.2 billion in five-year bonds paying 4.50% interest

• $1.60 billion in 12-year bonds at 5.70% interest

• $1.20 billion 20-year bond at 6.60% interest

These bonds were backed by equities worth around $7.9 billion, when the FNI’s portfolio was finalized in July 2018.

NIF’s portfolio includes shares of Trinidad Generation Unlimited (TGU), as well as shares of Republic Financial Holdings Ltd, Angostura Holdings Ltd, West Indian Tobacco Company (WITCO) and One Caribbean Media (OCM). The government received the shares of Republic, Angostura, WITCO and OCM as part of the settlement of CLICO’s $18 billion debt to taxpayers following the bailout of the insurance company, after its collapse in January 2009 .

In a notice issued on August 9, 2022, the Department of Finance said a total of $897.6 million in interest distributions had been paid to 7,500 bondholders in eight distributions since the launch of the NIF in July 2018.

The Ministry of Finance also noted that the value of the portfolio supporting the NIF had increased from $7.9 billion in July 2018 to $10.02 billion in June 2022.

The success of the original NIF was so remarkable that even Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley took note of the $897.6 million total that had been doled out by the investment holding company since July 2018.

In a Facebook post, which included the Finance Ministry’s opinion, Prime Minister Rowley recalled that “the opposition have tried to undermine (NIF) by calling it a ‘ponzi’ scheme” adding that “performance beats old talk every time”.

Referring to the “resounding success” of the first FNI, Mr. Imbert projected a second FNI in his presentation of the 2020 budget, which was delivered on October 7, 2019.

“Barring unforeseen circumstances, I propose to introduce during the 2020 financial year a second bond issue of the National Investment Fund which will be based, among other things, on the proceeds of the sale of certain shares held by CLICO which are currently valued to $2.6 billion,” Mr. Imbert said.

“We will maintain the current 2:1 ratio of assets and corporate bonds issued by the first National Investment Fund,” he said.

As of October 2019, CLICO owned a $2.60 billion asset, Methanol Holdings International Ltd (MHIL), which owns a 60% stake in Oman Methanol Company, according to CLICO’s 2021 audited financial statements. .

CLICO’s 2020 audited financial statements show that the insurance company owns 56.53% of MHIL, which was valued at $2.58 billion as of December 31, 2020. The remaining ownership of MHIL, approximately 43, 47%, belongs to Proman, Switzerland. based company which is the largest operator in the Point Lisas industrial area.

PM leaves T&T

Coincidentally – or not – when Prime Minister Rowley leaves today’s Spotlight on the Economy, he will be heading to Piarco International Airport to catch a flight to London, en route to Wollerau, Switzerland, where finds Proman’s headquarters.

Speaking in an interview in July, Mr Imbert said: “You have to back anything that looks like NIF with assets. And there are assets that we have been looking to acquire for some time. We are very, very close… So to do a NIF 2 we need to get assets that will back the bond and we are very close to that and it will come out in due course.

In October 2019, during the presentation of the 2020 budget, Mr. Imbert referred to the fact that the NIF2 was based, among other things, “on the proceeds from the sale of certain shares held by CLICO which are currently valued at 2.6 billion of dollars”.

In July 2022, he referred to “certain assets that we had been looking to acquire for some time.”

Has the government’s policy towards MHIL changed from selling to buying shares in the methanol producer?