Cabinet approved sale of govt stake in New GPC
Stabroek News
January 7, 2002

The decision to sell the government's remaining 30 per cent stake in the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation was approved by Cabinet on the recommendation of the Privatisation Board.

An official of the Privatisation Board told Stabroek News that the decision had been taken months ago and the sale is to allow the majority shareholder - the Ramroop Group - to put more money into the company. The official added that the valuation of the shares was based on the company's balance sheet and that the $200 million received for the 30 per cent stake was a good price.

There was concern in some quarters about the timing of the sale with New GPC about to go into production of HIV/AIDS drugs but other sources told Stabroek News that the decision to sell the shares was unconnected with this venture. Also they say that it would be some time before the company begins to see a return on this investment.

About the concern expressed by the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union (CCWU) over the New GPC's stance on pension benefits for its employees, the official of the Privatisation Board told Stabroek News that the matter was still under discussion and is expected to be settled shortly to the satisfaction of all concerned. The CCWU is one of two unions which represent the New GPC workers. The other is the Guyana Labour Union (GLU).

Stabroek News understands that the New GPC workers were covered by a pension plan which encompassed the old Bookers Group companies but as these were privatized some of them withdrew. Guysuco is one of the companies covered by the plan and some employers have complained that the contribution which they are required to pay to meet the projected $260 million deficit in the pension fund is not cost effective.

Stabroek News understands that the New GPC management has been asked to come up with $32 million as its contribution towards defraying the deficit. Stabroek News has learnt that the New GPC has indicated its intention of withdrawing from the pension fund with effect from May 2000 and is to arrange coverage for the workers under another scheme. It apparently took this decision without the agreement of the unions which represent its workers.

In the meantime the company has agreed with the GLU the terms under which its members' contributions from that date would be repaid to them. Those payments have already been made. The company is yet to reach agreement with the CCWU which has enlisted the assistance of the Trades Union Congress.