Friday, April 27, 2012

BVI and UK Sign New Fiscal Protocol

The UK and the BVI governments have signed new fiscal protocols for a new partnership that includes information sharing as it relates to the territory's finances, but does not include the controversial provision to send the budget for pre-approval. The documents were signed on April 23 by UK Minister for Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham, and Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. D. Orlando Smith, and Governor Boyd McCleary. Under the new protocol, the BVI commits to transparency in the management of the public finances that is consistent with the highest standards of governance and democracy.

Prior to signing the protocol, there was a concern that the BVI will have to have its full budget approved by the UK government prior to it being passed locally. The questions were asked about this issue, but Minister Bellingham maintained that information sharing was the key element of the protocol. Also, when questioned if there is difference from the situation in the Cayman Islands where that government has to send their budget to the UK for pre-approval, Bellingham said that, unlike some countries, the UK does not have a one size fits all for Territories.

“We don’t micro manage, we actually believe in working in partnerships, we believe in building up trust and the trust we’re building up between our two governments is manifest… and we have every confidence that information will be shared in the future,” the UK minister explained.

This is Bellingham's first visit to the BVI territory, and the first visit of a British government minister to the jurisdiction since April 2009. BVI Premier and UK Minister discussed a range of topics, including BVI's financial strategy, the forthcoming Overseas Territories White Paper, and other important issues. The UK Minister stated that the BVI is a huge success story, and a world class financial service center.

Friday, April 20, 2012

British Virgin Islands Introduce IBAN

Premier and Minister of Finance of the British Virgin Islands, D. Orlando Smith, OBE, told the Department of Information and Public Relations that the introduction of the International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN) is a very important developent for the British Virgin Islands territory. By his words, this step “has positioned the BVI as a world-class banking centre, by putting the BVI on the same level with more than 50 other countries”, nurturing BVI´s banking business overall. He also added: "We are convinced that the BVI banking industry, although very small compared to other banking centres, will grow further as it continues to participate in activities to engage international standards of the industry."

The Ministry of Finance of the jurisdiction, upon the initiative of the BVI Bank Association, endorsed the application for a national country code to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) – the official registrar to the IBAN. SWIFT approved the application allowing the national IBAN format for the BVI available to worldwide banks effective this month.

President of the BVI Bank Association Ms. Joycelyn Murraine said that, BVI being a member of IBAN, efficiency will be gained, enabling Straight Through Processing, and by that the territory can attract significant banking business from new markets and banks.

The International Bank Account Numbers are unique codes assigned to bank accounts to standardise and simplify the international money transfer process.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

BVI Offshore Law Firm Advised on USD 1.1bn Debt Conversion

British Virgin Islands office of international offshore expert firm Ogier has adviced CEMEX – one of the world's largest cement and building materials makers, listed on New York and Mexican stock exchanges, – on its most recent notes transaction valued at USD 1.1 bn, which closed at the end of March. CEMEX completed the exchange of approximately 48% of the outstanding perpetual debentures for new senior secured notes, which will mature in 2019. This transaction has reduced CEMEX's total debt by USD131m.

Ray Wearmouth, Managing Partner of Ogier BVI, has said: “Ogier BVI has built our offering around providing high quality, seamless and fully integrated services across practices and geographies and our most recent work with CEMEX is an excellent legal and fiduciary example of those capabilities being fully utilised for a blue-chip client.”

CEMEX's CFO Fernando Gonzalez said that “These exchange offers allow CEMEX to further reduce its refinancing risk and its overall indebtedness (including Perpetual Debentures), two important components in our ongoing financial strategy.”