NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Financial Services Union (BFSU) President Theresa Mortimer said yesterday that CIBC FirstCaribbean bank’s announcement that it would no longer proceed with its deal to sell a majority stake in its Caribbean operations to the GNB Financial Group was a “plus“, telling Eyewitness News “they were not on top of my list”.

CIBC yesterday announced that the transaction that would have seen Colombia’s GNB Financial Group Limited acquire a majority stake in FirstCaribbean International Bank Limited will not proceed as it did not receive approval from FirstCaribbean’s regulators.

Mortimer said that the union is set to meet with the bank’s management today on the way forward in light of the arrangement falling through.

“I would have met with the governor of the Central Bank concerning my opinion of the sale,” said Mortimer.

“I did say that before The Bahamas gives approval, there are 16 other territories out there where the bank operates and the regulators should all work as one. I understand we didn’t give approval along with a few other territories.

“Last year, they were saying that the deal was delayed because of COVID and so I don’t know what brought this about. It’s going to be interesting to hear what CIBC FirstCaribbean’s team has to say.”

Mortimer added: “I’ve been to Colombia. I know there isn’t much respect for the unions in Colombia and so it’s a plus for me to move away from that group.

“They’re not union-friendly and for that reason, they were not on top of my list.“

In a statement yesterday, Colette Delaney, CEO, FirstCaribbean, said: “While this transaction would have supported FirstCaribbean’s long-term growth prospects, it is only one way of supporting growth for our bank going forward.

“CIBC has held a majority ownership stake in FirstCaribbean for a number of years, and there exists an excellent working relationship with a shared focus on meeting the needs of our clients.”

She added: “FirstCaribbean is a strong, well-run bank which is adjusting sensibly to the economic reality of the pandemic and is well-positioned to recover as the economies of the region recover. We remain laser-focused on delivering on our strategy — providing our clients with first-class service through a modern everyday banking experience and providing our employees with the best possible work experience.”

Under the proposed deal announced back in late 2019, GNB would have acquired 66.73 percent of the shares of FirstCaribbean, which was subject to the approval of local regulators. CIBC would have retained 24.9 percent interest in the Caribbean bank.

GNB is wholly owned by Starmites Corporation, the financial holding company of the Gilinski Group. The Gilinski Group, headed by Jamie Gilinski, has banking operations in Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Panama and the Cayman Islands, with approximately US$15 billion in combined assets.

FirstCaribbean is located in 16 countries around the Caribbean, providing banking services through approximately 2,900 employees in 64 branches and offices.

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