BWIA’s minority shareholders suing government

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago: A group of minority BWIA shareholders are planning to sue the government in an attempt to receive more than the TT$0.20 cents (US$0.03) which they’re now being offered for each of their shares.

The shareholders, many of them former workers of the now defunct airline, took the decision to take legal action during a meeting last Sunday.

The first item on their agenda will be to clarify whether the country’s Security Exchange Commission (SEC) can intervene in the matter so they can get fair value for their shares. The SEC has said since it delisted BWIA in December 2006, it could not get involved.

However, attorney Lynnette Seebaran-Suite said she would be writing to the Commission again.

“If they say they do not have jurisdiction, we go to court immediately to clear that up. Once we are there, we are asking the court to declare that the takeover by-laws do apply, and the SEC has jurisdiction and we would also ask the court to fix the fair value of the shares.

“If they say yes, they have jurisdiction, we have to wait the 90 days for the company to take the issue to court, to get the fair value fixed. If they do not operate within that 90 days, we, the dissenting minority shareholders, then have the next 30 days to do it,” Seebaran-Suite said.

The government, the majority BWIA shareholder, has refused to change its offer and, according to the finance ministry’s Finance and Planning Committee, the shareholders have until Friday to accept it. Some shareholders have accepted the offer, but most of them continue to hold out.

Responding to threats of legal action, Minister of Trade and Industry Mariano Browne said the government stands by its position.

“They are free to take legal action and I have no argument in that regard. We have taken a position, the shareholders have theirs. They have put their cards on the table and we have done so too,” Browne said.

Browne had previously said that the offer was justifiable because government took the value of the shares when it became the majority shareholder in June 2004. Government owns 97.18 per cent of the shares in BWIA.

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