The banking sector in Belize is seeing yet another shift as Scotiabank’s Belize shares are being bought over. Lord Michael Ashcroft through his group, Caribbean Investments Holdings Limited (CIHL) has acquired Scotiabank’s Belize licensed operations. In the first instance, CIHL will pay thirty point five million US dollars to Scotiabank Caribbean Holdings. Thereafter, an additional four point five million US dollars will be made if Scotia’s shareholders’ equity exceeds twenty-eight point five million US dollars based on regulatory changes from the time of the signing and the closing of the buy over. Reports are that senior staff of Scotiabank Belize was engaged in a virtual meeting earlier today with representatives of Ashcroft’s Caribbean Investment Holdings to discuss the merger and the way forward. According to the Governor of the Central Bank of Belize, Joy Grant, the discussion began well before the Covid-19 endemic took off in Belize.
Joy Grant, Governor of the Central Bank of Belize: “The Central Bank has been duly notified officially of an agreement for the acquisition of all the shares of Scotiabank Belize by Caribbean Investment Holdings Limited – the parent company of The Belize Bank Limited. This agreement will in effect represent an eventual merger of these two domestic banking institutions. To be absolutely clear while the transaction is commercial in nature between two private companies it is the Central Bank’s overarching interest, indeed our sacred mandate, to safeguard the monetary and financial system’s stability and to protect the Belizean dollar for the well being of Belize; this we will ensure. I want to assure the public that the Central Bank will endeavor to make the transition seamless. Scotiabank has assured that the buyer is committed to retaining all current employees for at least one year after closing the transaction.”
Ashcroft’s acquisition of Scotiabank Belize significantly expands his operations in the country and has now given his group the largest shares in the banking sector. Scotiabank which has been operating in Belize since 1968, currently has nine branches and twenty-one ATM machines nationwide. As noted by Governor Grant, the staff members are guaranteed one year job security as part of the buy-over agreement. As it relates to the existing Scotiabank customers, Governor Grant says they do not anticipate any hiccups in the way business is done.
Joy Grant, Governor of the Central Bank of Belize: “Both parties have already tendered their assurances that Scotiabank’s customers, employees as well as it’s financial footprint in our country will be protected. Further the acquisition process will not change the way customers currently use or access their accounts. While the Central Bank works expeditiously to complete the acquisition review this significant investment and expansion by The Belize Bank represents a bold expression of confidence in the long term potential of our economy. Such faith is praiseworthy particularly during this period of global crisis.”
As we noted, this is yet another shift in the banking sector in Belize. Back in August 2015, First Caribbean Bank was bought over by Heritage Bank; almost three years later, in June 2018, Choice Bank’s license was revoked by the Central Bank of Belize followed by Atlantic International Bank whose license was revoked in April 2019. With this merger, Belize will now have three local commercial banks, namely, Heritage Bank, Belize Bank and Atlantic Bank.