Divestment of EFL shares: Come clean on sale to a foreign investor – Kamikamica

Manoa Kamikamica at the launch of the International Transport Workers' Federation's 'Making the Fiji National Provident Fund Work for Workers' report. Picture: JONA KONATACI

The People’s Alliance deputy party leader Manoa Kamikamica has quizzed the need for the Government to offload Energy Fiji Ltd (EFL) shares to a foreign investor when it was making profits.

In a statement, he called on Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to come clean on the divestment of EFL shares to a foreign investor.

He said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had surrendered a major portion of one of Fiji’s strategic assets, and the rationale and benefits were unclear.

“The Government still needs to explain why it saw fit to divest 44 per cent of EFL shares to a Japanese consortium, Sevens Pacific Pte Ltd,” he said.

“The mode of sale was strange.

“Firstly, they sold 20 per cent of EFL to FNPF and then later FNPF sold their shares to the foreign investor together with an additional 24 per cent offloaded by the Fiji Government.

“Why wasn’t FNPF allowed to maintain the 20 per cent stake in a profitable company such as EFL?”

He said from 2015 to 2019, EFL’s after-tax profits ranged from a low of $39.7 million, in 2015 to a high of $67.4m, and in 2020 at the height of COVID-19, EFL made $66.8m after tax and $66.6m in 2021.

“In other words, EFL had made very good profits for seven consecutive years so if EFL was already profitable why the need for the foreign investor?”

Mr Kamikamica said public comments attributed to the economy minister about EFL were concerning adding that “a little learning is a dangerous thing”.

“On the one hand, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum talks about the FNPF making ‘a huge killing’ from selling its 20 per cent equity on EFL, yet he is the very one who had publicly defended the need for FNPF to make ‘wise investment’ by buying shares in Fiji Airways.

“Now how does he explain that? If FNPF is truly after ‘wise and lucrative’ investments, then why give up its shares in a profit-making entity such as EFL for an airline that is currently highly geared, a high-risk investment and is not out of the woods yet?

“Thankfully the people of Fiji are not as naive as Mr Sayed-Khaiyum would like to think.

“His gift-of-the gab and love for sophisticated English will not save him this time around.”

Mr Kamikamica said the key concern was why EFL shares acquired by FNPF were offloaded to a foreign company when it could have been at least left with a local superannuation fund like FNPF in view of the profitability of the company.

“The members of FNPF would no doubt be enjoying annual dividends which would easily surpass one-off profit of $36 million that the minister for economy boasts over.”

Mr Kamikamica said an investigation into the acquisition of EFL shares by Sevens Pacific Pte Ltd would be done to establish the real reasons for the sale when The People’s Alliance becomes the Government.

• Questions sent yesterday to Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on the concerns raised remained unanswered when this edition went to press.

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