I am one of thousands of minority shareholders of CIBC FirstCaribbean, the Barbados-based bank that was established in 2002 as a result of the merger of the Caribbean operations of the British bank, Barclays, and its Canadian counterpart, CIBC.
When CIBC FirstCaribbean was founded, Barclays and CIBC each owned 43.7 per cent of the merged entity, which meant that the two banks combined owned 87.4 per cent of the Caribbean bank.
When the bank was setup, it was called FirstCaribbean International Bank, which is the name by which it is listed on the stock exchanges in Barbados and T&T.
In March 2006, Barclays announced that it wanted to sell its 43.7 per cent stake in the bank and by December of that year, CIBC had purchased the Barclays shareholding of 599,401,230 shares.
CIBC paid US$988,652,389 in cash for the Barclays shares, which valued the bank at US$1.62 per share, plus accrued but unpaid dividends. CIBC was required to make an offer to all remaining shareholders to acquire their shareholding in the regional bank. The minority shareholders were offered the same US$1.62 a share that Barclays received.
As a result of its purchase of the Barclays stake, and the offer to the minority shareholders, CIBC now owns 91.7 per cent of FirstCaribbean, which was renamed CIBC FirstCaribbean Bank in June 2011 “to be more closely aligned to the CIBC brand, while still maintaining the FirstCaribbean name and local identity,” according to the news release at the time.
In terms of its ownership structure, therefore, CIBC FirstCaribbean lies between Scotiabank, which owns 50.9 per cent of its T&T subsidiary, and RBC, which owns 100 per cent of RBC T&T.
The point is that with ownership of 91.7 per cent, CIBC FirstCaribbean is a majority Canadian bank operating in the region.
That is why when it was realised there is a problem receiving dividend cheques from CIBC FirstCaribbean via the postal services of Barbados and T&T, I wrote to, and called, the investor relations employees of the Canadian parent company on Monday morning. A senior official at the Barbados subsidiary was copied.
In the email, it was pointed out that the payment date of CIBC FirstCaribbean’s first calendar 2023 dividend was April 21, and that the cheque was received on June 1. It took 41 days for a letter to get from Barbados to a shareholder’s home. Forty-one days!
And then, when the dividend cheque was deposited, the communication was it would take 15 working days to clear because CIBC FirstCaribbean pays its dividends in US dollars. That means, because there are two public holidays in June (today Corpus Christi and Labour Day, June 19), the earliest the dividend would be available is June 28. That is 68 days!
The basis of the enquiry, of course, was to find out whether it would be possible to get a direct deposit of the dividend payment to a US-dollar account by a wire.
I am happy to report that my second call to Toronto was at 11.37 am on Monday and that by 3.11 Monday afternoon, the assistant group corporate secretary of CIBC FirstCaribbean called to say it would be possible to receive a direct deposit.
She said all a CIBC FirstCaribbean shareholder has to do is fill out a change-of-warrant form in which the number of their US-dollar bank account is provided, have the form stamped by a bank manager or an attorney at law and then email the form to the bank’s registrar and transfer agent, the Barbados Securities Depository.
The CIBC FirstCaribbean official suggested in the telephone call that the bank was looking to put measures in place to ensure that all of the bank’s non-Barbados resident shareholders would be accommodated in the same way.
At a time when there is a great deal of newspaper commentary, letters to the editor and social media comments about the quality of service being provided by public and private institutions in T&T, the corporate secretariat of the Barbados-headquartered bank deserves fulsome praise and congratulations for its speedy and positive response to an enquiry from a shareholder.
It is hoped that CIBC FirstCaribbean shareholders who have been frustrated by the length of time that dividend cheques take to reach them will take advantage of this opportunity.
Anyone in need of details can write to email@example.com.
Should T&T’s assets
Last Thursday, in this publication, I reported on the long-standing and ongoing dispute between T&T’s Auditor General’s Department and its Board of Inland Revenue over whether the former should have access to taxpayer information held by the latter.
It is beyond belief that what appear to be a simple and straightforward issue should be unresolved after 11 years of writing and lobbying by the previous and current Auditor Generals.
The length of time it takes for the senior counsel retained by current Attorney General, Mr Reginald Armour, to get a High Court judge to interpret the Income Tax Act, the Audit and Exchequer Act and T&T Constitution will be noted. As reported last week, the 1976 Republican Constitution MANDATES that the Auditor General SHALL have access to all information pertinent to the public accounts of T&T. How the Board of Inland Revenue could be exempt from that mandate is beyond me.
The first few paragraphs of the 2022 Auditor General’s Report sets out the financial statements audited by the Department:
(i) Statements of the Treasury showing the financial position of the country as at September 30, 2022 which includes the following:
• The Exchequer Account;
• The Statement of Public Debt;
• The Statement of Loans from General Revenue;
• The Statement of Revenue showing sums estimated to be received into the Exchequer Account and the sums actually so received in the period of account;
• The Statement of Expenditure showing the sums to be issued out of the Exchequer Account and the sums actually so issued in the period of account;
• The Statement of Loans or Credits Guaranteed by the State;
• The Cash Basis Consolidated Statement of Assets and Liabilities; and
• Such other Statements as Parliament may from time to time require:
a) The Statement of Loans from the Funds for Long-Term Development.
(ii) Appropriation Accounts of individual Accounting Officers for the year ended September 30, 2022;
(iii) Statements of Receipts and Disbursements of individual Receivers of Revenue for the year ended September 30, 2022;
(iv) The Financial Statements of individual Administering Officers of Funds established under the provisions of section 43 of the Act for the year ended September 30, 2022; and
(v) Financial Statements of Administering Officers of any trust or other fund or account not provided for in section 24 of the Act, if so directed by the Treasury.
It strikes me that the Auditor General reviews public debt, loans from general revenue, loans and credits guaranteed by the State and loans for long-term development. That means there are audits of T&T liabilities, but NOT its assets. Those assets should include all of this country’s State enterprises, which I believe are very considerable but am unable to quantify because they have never been audited.