St. Maarten’s phone company strategic partnership committee to be reviewed

POSTED: 12/1/10 12:08 PM

Telem Meeting
St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, who is the Shareholder Representative for the Telem Group of Companies, intends to review the format of the committee seeking a strategic partner for the company needs to be renewed. She made her position clear on Tuesday, a day after she met with the Chairman of the company’s Supervisory Board of Directors Rafael Boasman and the company’s acting Chief Executive Officer Helma Etnel. Etnel sits in a management team with the company’s Chief Commercial Officer Brian Mingo and the Chief Technical Officer Eldert Louisa.
Wescot-Williams went into Monday’s meeting hoping to gain clarity on, amongst other things, the appointment of Louis Crastel Gumbs to assist in finding a strategic partner for the government owned company. She’s since learned the assignment was not for him to act alone, but for him to join a steering committee that consisted of the negotiating team, led by Boasman, two commissioners and the Lt. Governor – who at the time was Shareholder Representative for all companies owned by the then Island Government of St. Maarten. With the transition to country that committee’s “format” needs to be reviewed.
On the partnership itself the Prime Minister said, “We have established that Telem needs a strategic partner. That is a given. What the question is now is with does Telem partner and under what circumstances.”
In an interview earlier in the evening Boasman said he did inform the Prime Minister, in her capacity as Shareholder Representative, that the search for a strategic partner is continuing and that the company’s leadership was “choosing to be scarce with information.” That choice has been made in an effort to not upset negotiations with the several large multi-nationals that the negotiators are speaking with. The companies that have been hinted at thus far are Cable & Wireless, Digicel and United Telecommunications Services (UTS).
“Our first real information session was with the Shareholder Representative. We’ve not met either former Telecommunications Commissioner William Marlin or with Gumbs. For the moment we continue our discussions internally and when the time comes we will say as much as we can, but for now we must be cautious,” Boasman said.
A matter affecting negotiations to find the strategic partner is Telem’s financial health and Boasman has declared that the company is in a “healthy” place.
“If it weren’t some of the companies that have shown interest would not have done so. What we have done and keep doing is planning for the next give, 10, 15 and 20 years ahead, but really as of right now Telem is holding its own,” the Supervisory Board Chiarman said.
Boasman also said Tuesday he informed Wescot-Willams that the search to identify a new Chief Executive Officer. Pieter Drenth held that position until October 1, 2009. The board had submitted a candidate to the shareholder shortly after that, “but the appointment was never finalized.” The board then chose to have Etnel, Mingo and Louisa jointly lead the company and created a management team. So far the board is pleased with the work done by “three young local professionals.”
“They’ve been doing a fantastic job and they’ve achieved a lot. They’ve managed to finalise a Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) with the union, after that was pending for six years, they’ve introduced the very popular Blackberry service and they’ve settled a number of cases,” Boasman as he praised the trio.
The board’s joy at the work of the management team does not mean they’ll be leaving the situation as is. Instead they’ve placed ads and currently reviewing applications from people here and abroad who are interested in holding the top job.
“We’ve made this an open solicitation process and if there is a suitable, qualified, local person we will recommend them for the post,” Boasman said Tuesday evening.
The Prime Minister said she also learned from her meeting that the restructuring of the Telem Group has not been completed, that the company’s leadership continues to be concerned about the liberalization of the telecommunications industry and that the change in numbering plan that government has decided upon will be costly. The choice has been made to follow the American numbering system and the companies have to buy into it.

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