Stating he was unaware that the National Insurance Board (NIB) had increased its shareholding in Republic Bank Ltd (RBL), Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Mariano Browne, said government has no plans to increase its control over the bank. Government, by agreeing in January 2009 to bail out the cash-strapped CL Financial Group, now has control of CL Financial's 55 per cent shareholding in RBL. "I was not aware that they have increased their shareholding because there was always a shareholding. The shareholding must not be confused with Government in its custodian role," said Browne, who's also Trade Minister.
He was speaking at yesterday's post-Cabinet press conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's. NIB on Wednesday published two notices stating it had increased its shareholding in RBL and Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL).
Browne said there were no plans by government to increase its control over RBL. "There is no attempt by Government to increase its leverage over Republic Bank," he said, adding that NIB's role is to provide for those people who have paid contributions to it. "In any case, the shareholding at NIB is issuant in its obligations for investments, which will reach down to the benefit of its constituents, and for those of us who are contributors to the NIS who are looking forward to benefits for our retirement," he said.
Commenting on questions about CL Financial and government's role in the group, Browne said Government's role is to guide the conglomerage out of its current financial state. "Government is trying to create a mechanism for the management of the CL Financial Group and to manage it out of its position.
"We do have a custodian role with the shares, and our position is to manage that in the interest of the people of T&T so that we bring it back to an operating level for the people of T&T," he said. Browne also said government had no intention of selling any of the assets of Clico, one of the three CL Financial-owned companies that was being bailed out. "One needs to be judicious in terms of the managing of the assets at CL Financial Group, given the depressed state of the market both here and internationally. There is certainly no intentions of selling the assets. The position is to manage them and manage them well," he said.