Thursday 28th April 2005

 

Finance sector failing industry

 
 
 
 
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BY ASHA JAVEED

Local banks’ understanding of the energy sector has been described as “immature.” But the institutions have finally woken up to the fact that they can no longer afford not to invest in the energy sector.

Speaking at a seminar titled “At the crossroads: Building local content in T&T’s energy sector” at the University of the West Indies, assistant vice president of RBTT Merchant Bank Ltd, Joel Pemberton said there was a general lack of understanding by local institutional investors about the industry.

The seminar was organised by the Venture Capital Incentive Programme (VCIP).

President of the South Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Dr Jim Lee Young, said things are improving but banks are still failing in their understanding of the sector.

He said access to capital is one problem often experienced by indigenous service companies and independents.

“Banks and other financial institutions need to bring on board the necessary oil and gas expertise to be able to assess these opportunities correctly. This is not about lending money to buy a house or a car,” he said.

He said local independents usually looked to foreign stock exchanges such as Toronto to raise equity because the investing public in North America and London is far more sophisticated and recognises the high returns that are possible with investments in the upstream sector.

Pemberton explained that banks were now participating in the energy sector but only projects below US$100-US$150 million could be financed using local resources.

He added that the Insurance Act could be altered to allow pension plans and the National Insurance Board to hold equity positions in this sector, he said.

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