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PARAMARIBO–Surinamese insurer Assuria has acquired Trinidad’s Gulf Insurance Ltd, a move that management of the Surinamese company calls the fulfillment of a strategic goal to expand further into the Caribbean. Stephen Smit, Assuria’s General Manager announced at the annual general meeting of shareholders earlier this week that the Central Bank of Suriname CBvS granted permission to buy the Trinidadian company last Friday; the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago already gave the go-ahead a few months ago.
Assuria in March last year became the first insurer from Suriname to open a branch in neighbouring Guyana. Commenting on the acquisition of Gulf Mario Merhai, Assuria’s Director of Life & Health, Group Marketing & Sales told Trinidad’s Guardian newspaper in March: “With the acquisition of Gulf (Insurance Ltd), our wings will be far more spread than currently is the case.”
Assuria, the largest insurer in Suriname sells motor, life, health and general insurance. General Manager Smidt presented the figures over 2012 at the shareholders’ meeting last Tuesday, which showed that the company boasts of US$ 240 million in assets and clocked US$ 35 percent profit in 2012. Smidt had a positive outlook for Suriname’s economy; he said the developments in the mining sector would have a good spin off effect on the rest of the country.
PARAMARIBO–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (S&P) has raised its outlook on Suriname from stable to positive, citing investments in the energy and mining sector as boosts for growth. ”At the same time, we affirmed our ‘BB-/B’ foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings on Suriname,” S&P said in a press release.
According to S&P analyst Richard Francis, the ratings agency’s revision to positive reflects the expectation “that large investments in the mining and oil sectors could lead to higher growth prospects as well as higher levels of exports and government revenues”. He further argued that tax reform and the creation of a sovereign wealth fund could also improve fiscal flexibility.
S&P said that Suriname has improving macroeconomic fundamentals, robust medium-term growth prospects, a low debt position, and solid external indicators, which however are offset by its narrow economic base and institutional capacity.
PARAMARIBO—Petronas, the national oil company of Malaysia has joined the hunt for natural gas off the coast of Suriname. Staatsolie on Friday announced that it has signed a production sharing contract with the Malaysia’s explorer for an offshore bloc about 130 kilometers off shore. “We believe in Suriname,” said Petronas general manager Effendi Chung Bin Abdullah at the signing with Staatsolie Director Mark Waaldijk.
Staatsolie said Petronas will invest US$25 million, drill at least one exploratory well and conduct a 3D seismic survey of Block 52. It said Petronas’s costs would be reimbursed if the Malaysian company developed a commercial discovery, in which case, Staatsolie would have the option to participate with a 20 percent stake.
PARAMARIBO–It seems Trinidad’s Republic Bank Limited is not put off by the failure to get a foothold in Suriname now. Following reports from Suriname’s Government that indicated that a planned sale of Hakrin Bank shares to the Trinidadian bank would no longer take place, Republic said on Tuesday that it is open to other opportunities in expanding its reach in the Caribbean.
Republic Bank has shown considerable interest in acquiring a stake in Hakrin Bank, and up to August last year talks about the take-over were “progressing smoothly” and “at an advanced stage”. Republic, an expansive Trinidad-based Caribbean banking giant, also has branches in Grenada, Guyana, Barbados and the Cayman Islands. Hakrin Bank is one of Suriname’s oldest banks and boasts of 25 percent ownership of the local market. Government holds 51 percent of its shares. Republic Bank would be the second regional bank to enter the Surinamese market, following the former Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago that was involved in the takeover of the Dutch ABN-Amro Bank’s operations in Suriname a in the mid nineties.
JAKARTA–Foreign Minister Winston Lackin, in Jakarta at the moment, on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding with his Indonesian counterpart Minister Marty Natalegawa on Monday that commits the former Dutch colonies to boost people-to-people relations and increase trade. The ministers also agreed to develop technical cooperation such as providing training for teachers who taught the disabled, training in the gas and oil sector, education and sports.
“There is a strong basis for business. Between Suriname and Indonesia there is a very special relationship. We have long historical ties and a large part of the Suriname population [have Indonesian heritage],” Lackin said.
Many Javanese people migrated to Suriname to work on plantations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An estimated 15 percent of the current Suriname population can trace their heritage back to Java. “We have been blessed by enrichment from [Indonesia’s] culture, history and religion,” Lackin said.
PARAMARIBO–Suriname is building the Caribbean’s first gold refinery. Government entered into a joint venture with precious metals refiners Kaloti Group of Dubai last year, and over the weekend the start of the construction of the smelting and bullion manufacturing plant was announced. The refinery that is being built near the village of Wit Santi, close to the country’s International Airport, is expected to start operating by next year and produce as much as US$2.77 billion worth of refined gold. President Desi Bouterse joined Kaloti Chairman Munir Kaloti in expressing high expectations of the facility. The US$20 million plant should make Suriname into a “center of excellence for the region’s gold and precious metals industry,” a joint release said.
Suriname produces an average of 40 tons of gold a year, but until now it has had no large scale refining capacity. The new refinery will be called Kaloti Suriname Mint House and will be the first of its kind in Suriname and the region, the company boasted. The refinery is expected to eventually produce as much as 60 tons of refined gold when it is fully up and running in 2016. Initial refining is scheduled to begin by the middle of next year. It will focus on melting and producing gold bars to international purity standards of 999.9%. The press release didn’t clarify the details of the public/private sector partnership between Government and Kaloti.
PARAMARIBO–Dredging company De Boer – Dutch Dredging is shortlisted to dredge the Suriname River estuary an official from the country’s Maritime Authority (MAS) has announced. Boskalis, also from the Netherlands and Jan de Nul, a company from Belgium, had also submitted bids, but it looks like De Boer will be getting the “multi million dollar project” Ferry Delchot, who made the announcement to local press on behalf of MAS.
The muddy, shallow mouth of Suriname’s main river poses a challenge for ships to navigate to the main harbor in Paramaribo, and De Boer, if selected, will be contracted to deepen it out. The job will entail dredging 66 kilometers of river floor, an operation Suriname has been considering for years. Many ships with deep draught –freight vessels for instance- are not able enter the river fully loaded and sail up to the New Haven harbor in Paramaribo; if they are piloted in there are restrictions to how much freight they can load in order to make it back out.
PARAMARIBO–An announcement by Government that it will sell off its shares in two public banks has raised some question marks in the country. In a press release issued last week Thursday, the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank announced that the shares the nation owns in the Credit, Trade and Industry “Hakrin” Bank and the Agriculture Bank will soon be available for purchase by private investors. The move blocks the impending acquisition of a majority stake in Hakrin Bank by Trinidad’s Republic Bank, which is apparently what Government intended. But some felt it came as too much of a surprise.
The press release spoke of an advanced plan for “democratizing” the banks. The Agriculture Bank will be fully privatized and the 25 percent shares Government holds in Hakrin Bank will be sold to private investors. Government said the sale would take place on the local commodities market “in a transparent process”. The press release said the move is part of Government’s intentions to have less involvement in the service and product sectors that are best served by private initiative. “Government intends to restructure its role,” the release said. It also said that the proceeds should help slash the public debts and free capital that can be used for investments in the social sector. Furthermore that privatization should encourage competition among banks in the country. In addition the transformation “translates to new opportunities for entrepreneurship, economic growth and financial development.” The privatization is expected to be completed before year-end.
UK–Guguplex brings affordable, clean solar power to rural communities in Suriname. One of the eight IDEAS 2012 competition winners, the company aims to bring affordable, clean solar power to rural communities in the country, who do not have 24/7 access to electricity. Competition organizer GVEP International stated in a recent press release that Guguplex, which sells and maintains solar equipment at its store in Paramaribo, intends to provide solar lighting at minimal cost, through assistance from a local micro-finance institution.
Many rural communities depend on kerosene lamps and/or candles for night light, the release said. This aggravates respiratory conditions and can be costly. Alternatively, some communities have access to electricity from diesel generators, but this fuel is very expensive and so electricity is on for only a few hours a day.