**Invitation to Register Interest**

The Bahamas Government launched its outreach for the partial sale of the local telecommunications company today, with advertisements appearing in the domestic and international media inviting interested parties “to register interest in the privitisation process”. A copy of the advertisement is available on the Government’s official web site.

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) currently is owned 100% by the Government. It is seeking a strategic partner, for the sale of a 49% stake in BTC and transfer of management control in BTC. According to the published invitation, such a partner is expected *”to provide the technical and financial resources and management capabilities to enable the BTC to attain the highest levels of international and national competitiveness and performance in the telecommunications sector.”*

Entities entitled to apply to pre-qualify for participation in the share sale include companies or entities that meet one of the criteria set out below; companies that are owned by an entity that meets one of the criteria; or consortia that include at least one entity that meets one of the criteria.

The pre-qualification criteria:

(a) a telecommunications company must either demonstrate revenues from fixed and/or cellular telecommunications activities for the last audited financial year of over US$300 million, or must operate one or more fixed and/or cellular telecommunications networks with more than 300,000 subscribers in total; or

(b) a financial investor must demonstrate that it has committed capital or funds under management in excess of US$300 million.

Parties interested in registering their interest to participate in this process and receive a copy of the Sale Process Rules which set out the next stages of the privitisation process are asked to contact the Ministry of Finance at the following address:

P.O. Box N3017
Nassau, N.P. Bahamas
Tel: (242) 327-1530
Fax: (242) 327-1618
Email: MOFGENERAL@bahamas.gov.bs

During Parliamentary Debate on the privatisation of the telecommunications company, Minister of Financial Services and Investments, Allyson Maynard-Gibson, pointed to the private sector as the best choice in providing leadership for the development of the Bahamian information ‘superhighway’. She said the Government is committed to greater private sector involvement and leadership in those sectors of the economy where competition and adoption of fast-paced, state-of-the-art innovation have acted as a stimulus for economic growth, greater efficiencies and higher levels of productivity.

Today, the Hon. James Smith, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, said the sale is an investment in improved telecommunications within the entire Bahamas. He further said that a new and improved Bahamas Telecommunications Company could provide a solid foundation for e-commerce development. Enabling ecommerce legislation expected to be tabled in Parliament before the end of the year include:

– Electronic Communications Act, which would provide amongst other things for the legal recognition of electronic transactions, contracts and signatures on the same footing as their paper-based equivalents, and for the supervision of intermediaries and e-commerce providers;

– Computer Misuse Act, which would criminalise certain wrongful intervention involving computers, their systems and transmissions via computers such as hacking, and;

– Data Protection (Privacy of Information) Act, designed to guarantee certain rights to individuals in respect of the use of personal information collected in relation to them, consistent with international standards on such protection.

Simultaneously, revisions to existing intellectual property laws continue as a work in progress to ensure that international standards applicable to such matters arising out of Internet activity, particularly in the area of copyright and trademarks, are adequately provided for. This last aspect is being addressed within the context of The Bahamas’ application for accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

After the pending sale, it is expected that the BTC will maintain its current cell phone monopoly for a period of one year, with the fixed line monopoly continuing for two years.

The deadline for registering interest is December 6, 2002 with preliminary bids to be submitted by 12:00 noon on January 10, 2003. Minister Smith has indicated that the Government anticipates the process will be completed by the end of the first quarter, 2003.

The Government has made the necessary amendments to the national Telecommunictions Sector Policy to allow Bahamians to participate in the bidding process, provided the qualifying criteria are met.