Letters & Opinion

Digicel, Why The Threat?

IT is no secret that Digicel is Cable and Wireless’ biggest competitor in the Caribbean and that they have gone on an all-out assault to block and delay the people dem merger. But, imagine my utter surprise when I read Digicel’s Group CEO, Colm Delves threats to the regulators that they “will re-examine its investment plans in Jamaica and the region if it is not happy with the terms of the buy-out of Columbus International by Cable and Wireless Communications Plc (CWC)”.

Is the Caribbean region to be held hostage by this giant Irish Telecommunications company? Does Digicel think that the people of the region will cower at their apparent threats to withdraw their investments if the CWC/Columbus proposed deal goes through? Yes, I acknowledge that Digicel has contributed economically and socially to the region as they not only provided telecom services and products as well as employment and support for many social ventures, but does this warrant this “bullying” behaviour? The Caribbean has significantly funded most of their other investments. At the end of July they paid over US600M in dividends to Denis O’Brien. Wow! They give some and take a lot.

Since the announcement of the pending merger, Digicel has been vociferously calling this proposed deal a monopolistic move. They say it will result in the death of competition within the region, if it is permitted. Somebody explain this to me, how come Digicel made a bid to purchase Columbus? What would have happened if Digi was successful? Is this a case of “what’s good for the goose not good for the gander?” Digicel swallowed up over 20 companies over the past few years – 20. More recently there was the GCN submarine deal and SportsMax, the #1 sports channel cable company in the region. Why are they so opposed to CWC trying to compete now?

As far as I understand the regional regulators and governments are working assiduously to review and analyse this CWC/Columbus proposed deal. The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) has even stated, that they are joining with the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) to analyse the impact of the proposed US$3 billion acquisition of Columbus. Thus, the relevant authorities are exercising due diligence with respect to this CWC/Columbus merger and looking out for the region … so why is Digicel bent on issuing threats to them?

I believe that there is still more market share that Digi can go after and there is still opportunity for vibrant competition. Digicel’s bullying tactics and threat of withdrawal of their investments really shows them up as the “bigger bully” of the Caribbean. We recognise a threat when we see one.

– Philisha Parkinson

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