Trinidad company opens equity opportunity window to Guyanese
-introduces investment products

Stabroek News
November 5, 1999

The Trinidad and Tobago Unit Corporation (T&T Unit Co) is making investment products, that promise good rates of return coupled with financial security and liquidity, available to pension funds and individuals in Guyana. It is hoped that these different investment vehicles will be retailed by the Guyana National Cooperative Bank Trust Corporation in the near future.

In a presentation at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel on Wednesday, Ruben Mc Sween corporate manager of the International Business Development Unit of the T&T Unit Co, described the company's philosophy as wanting to create a wider shareholding democracy. He took the invitees through the company's trust unit products, including the TT$1.4 billion (US$233 million) Growth and Income Fund (GIF), a medium to long-term investment. Sixty percent of this fund is currently invested in regional equities and 25% externally placed primarily in conservative US securities.

As long as investors maintain their investment, which can initially be as low as TT$100 (US$15), for three years, they are guaranteed the same amount that they originally invested upon withdrawal. Rates of return have varied from 48.9% in 1997, to 12.1% in 1998 with average rates of return close to 30% for the last five years. Investors are paid twice a year and have the option of reinvesting their funds at a five percent discount on the price of the unit. There are currently 122,045 investors in this fund. Monthly investment plans allow for deductions from salaries or bank accounts into the fund.

The Money Market Fund is a short-term investment vehicle with capital weighted towards treasury securities, certificates of deposit and commercial paper and other stable securities. The rate of return for 1998 was 10.4%. Total liquidity is guaranteed with same day withdrawals if necessary.

The Universal Retirement Account is a long-term placement that presents an affordable way to adequately prepare for retirement with the emphasis of capital growth. Payments can be in a lump sum or by periodic withdrawal.

According to Mc Sween the total assets under management by the corporation which was established in 1982 are TT$3 billion (US$500 million) with over 263,300 total units issued. This represents 85% of the mutual fund market in Trinidad and 60% of the working persons are invested in the corporation's products.

A more international opportunity is the US$ Chaconia Income and Growth Fund, based in Maryland and sponsored by the T&T Unit Co. This gives Caribbean investors access to a portfolio of blue chip companies and other US securities.

At a seminar at Le Meridien Pegasus on Wednesday, CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, Byron Blake, describing the financial environment of the Caribbean stressed the importance for development of using "the capacity to mobilise capital in the most advantageous terms and to employ it effectively." He cited the linkages of the three regional stock exchanges in Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica which allow companies such as Grace Kennedy Ltd to be listed on all three exchanges thus having increased access to capital. Future plans include a stock exchange in the Bahamas; regulatory framework strengthening and establishment of a central security deposit for each country. Blake noted that even though Guyana did not yet have a stock exchange the T&T Unit Co could serve as a window for equity opportunities in the Caribbean. (William Walker)

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples