Paul J.I. McWeeney
Bank of the Bahamas International
The Bank of The Bahamas earlier this month took on a new corporate identity as it was renamed Bank of the Bahamas International, and unveiled plans to establish a direct presence in Miami, Florida. It also plans to expand its operations into the Caribbean and Latin America through partnering with a regional bank. Paul McWeeney, Managing Director, reports that there has been robust growth in the bank’s international activities, which now represent about 15% of core business. He further pointed out that Bank of the Bahamas International *”recognises the significant level of commerce between The Bahamas and North America and the need to provide innovative financial services to its growing customer base, so that commerce can be conducted in a more convenient, efficient, and friendly manner.”*
It is estimated that over the last eight years the Bank has contributed some $61.1 million to the public treasury, emerging from an institution totally dependent upon its major shareholder, the Government, to one that is strong, more independent, financially resilient and progressive. It raised $11.5 million through the sale of five million shares in 1994, during its initial public offering.
Now, subject to regulatory approval, the Bank of the Bahamas International plans in the immediate future to raise $35 million through a public offering of six million shares. From this, it hopes to use around $12 million to reduce the Government’s 51 per cent stake in the bank, by one third. Despite its majority shareholding, the Government has allowed the bank’s management to operate the institution as a business, and Mr. McWeeney indicated that the move away from government will be done in a manner that is gradual, prudent and that benefits them.
**Strong Demand For New Business**
Other proceeds will be used to strengthen the bank’s capital base and provide funds to support new business opportunities as the institution prepares for its international expansion. * “We have very strong demand for new business and want to be able to capitalise on our growth potential and to get new shareholders,”* said the Managing Director.
The Bank currently is lobbying for an amendment to the Companies Act, to allow Bahamian companies to hold shares in the Treasury, and in a recent interview with The Tribune, Mr. McWeeney said it was hoped the Government would give the Bank “exceptional” authority to finance the acquisition of two million shares in government stock. If approved, these shares could be released to the market as seen fit, providing the Bank with another mechanism for raising capital.
The Miami Branch of Bank of the Bahamas International is expected by mid-2004. The international move, according to Mr. McWeeney, has been driven by the need to achieve market diversification, *”the key to the success and viability of any business.”*