Lawrence Duprey

Former chairman of the CL Financial Group, Lawrence Duprey

Three other assets of CL Financial (CLF) are awaiting the consent of the court before they are put on the market.

According to the seventh report to the court, dated December 18, 2020, and signed by joint liquidator David Holukoff, those assets are: the insurance company Colfire, manufacturing company Caribbean Petrochemical Manufacturing Ltd (CPML) and Safeguard Services Ltd.

The report noted that a divesture strategy for Colfire was finalised in the last year.

“The proposed strategy was outlined in an application seeking the Court’s consent to the divesture which was initially heard on 8 December 2020 and adjourned to 6 January 2021. The divesture of this asset and release of value to CLF will proceed in 2021 subject to the consent of the Court,” the report said.

Industry sources told Express Business that the sale of Colfire is in process as the joint liquidators petitioned the High Court to appoint Miami-based investment bank, Broadspan, to value the company and arrange its sale.

As for CPML, the report said: “The company’s successful progress through the pandemic, together with completion of necessary pre-divestment steps, means it is well placed to be divested by CLF in the coming period in the interest of releasing value directly to the liquidation estate. The JLs submitted an application to the Court seeking consent to the divesture strategy which has been adjourned to 6 January 2021. The divesture of this asset and release of value to CLF will proceed in 2021 subject to the consent of the Court.”

The same applies to Safeguard Services Limited.

“The JLs and their staff, in capacity as representatives of the corporate directors and subcommittee members, overseen preparation of a divesture strategy for HCL’s 100 per cent indirect interest in Safeguard Services Limited in the period.

“Preparations included completion of audits together with review and renegotiating of key customer contracts which will secure value in the sale process. An application seeking consent to the proposed divesture strategy was heard by the Court on 8 December 2020 and adjourned until 6 January 2021. The indirect subsidiaries will be brought to market in early 2021, subject to the consent of the Court.”

The report noted that divestment strategies of two other assets have also progressed but did not identify them.

“The JLs and their team together with management of the subsidiaries have significantly advanced divesture strategies for two indirectly owned trading assets. It is anticipated that an application seeking the consent of the Court to advance the divesture strategies for two indirectly owned trading assets will be submitted in the next period,” the report said.

The assets are among several in the CLF empire which remain to be put on the market since the liquidation began in 2017.

According to the report, CLF, the conglomerate in liquidation, had $237 million in cash by October 31, 2020.

The report noted that a substantial value was received by CLF on the week of preparing the report, which will take its cash in hand to $374 million, of which $88 million will remain ringfenced within the company on the determination of an outstanding trust deed.

The joint liquidators sold assets directly and indirectly owned by CLF to the sum of $140 million for the reporting period.

CLF received $152 million in dividends for the six-month period—$142 million from CL World Brands (CLWB) and $10 million from Caribbean Petrochemical Manufacturing Limited.

In July 2017, the Government petitioned to have the High Court wind up CLF.

A conglomerate that was chaired by Lawrence Duprey before the group’s collapse in January 2009, CLF was once the most powerful company in T&T, a billion dollar enterprise with subsidiary companies around the world. The bailout of CLF, which was being born out of an insurance company, Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO), has cost T&T taxpayers billions of dollars.

According to the company’s 2017 management accounts, CLF’s liabilities exceed its assets by $3.4 billion.

In the past 12 years, under Government management, CLF has sold a number of assets which include Primera Energy Group, Lawrenceburg Distillers Ltd, Laselles des Mercado Limited, Burn Stewart Distillers Limited, Thomas Hine and Company Limited, Societe Dugas Limited SA, Valpark Shopping Plaza Limited and Atlantic Plaza and CL Marine.

When Duprey went cap-in-hand to the Government in January 2009 for liquidity support for CLICO and CIB, the Central Bank intervened because of the systemic effect the collapse of Duprey’s empire would have had on the country’s economy. CLICO had a customer base of 260,000, which approximates to 20 per cent of the population and included 15,000 pensioners and around 100 credit and trade unions. CLICO and its parent, CLF, also owned 51 per cent of Republic Bank, then and now this country’s largest commercial bank.

Taxpayers spent $100 million to fund a Commission of Enquiry into the collapse of CLICO.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had said Queen’s Counsel Sir Anthony Colman’s report into the collapse of CLICO “contains serious allegations of criminal misconduct on the part of a handful of individuals who were associated with the CLICO/CLF group of companies”.

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