Is history repeating itself with a PNM-led Govt, this time by Keith Rowley, in the sale of Petrotrin; will taxpayers allow this current PNM Administration to do what another PNM Administration did 53 years ago with the acquisition of Tesoro?
In an article in the Trinidad Guardian Business Edition of May 26, 2022, captioned “US Company Quanten has preferred bidder for Petrotrin refinery” Curtis Williams reported on the Rowley-led PNM Administration’s selection of Quanten Consortium LLC as their choice to sell the assets of Petrotrin.
At a subsequent media briefing, Opposition Senator Wade Mark called on the Govt to “back off as we won’t allow you (Rowley) and the PNM to sell our assets… Trinidad Petroleum Holdings and subsidiary Paria must be owned by the people.”
And in response to Mark’s questions about whether the preferred bidder for Petrotrin’s assets (which Mark said were US$7Billion), Energy Minister Stuart Young called Mark’s statement “UNC mischief” saying that “various arms of the US Govt have communicated with me… with respect to Quanten LLC, indicating its (Quanten’s) interest in the RFP process for the refinery and there has been supported for the company as being an American based entity.”
Perhaps Young does not understand commercial diplomatic language and best practices or was simply playing smart with foolishness. Does Young expect the US Govt to ill-speak a US Company to a third world Govt and tell T&T not to do business with an American registered company?
Is history repeating itself with another PNM Government, this time led by Keith Rowley?
On July 1, 1969, another PNM Administration led by Eric Williams acquired the local assets of British Petroleum in a joint venture with Tesoro Corporation, a small, obscure Texas oil company. This was GOTT’s first venture into national ownership of an oil company.
To finance the deal, the TT Govt borrowed US$20M which was BP’s selling price and agreed to let Tesoro pay its US$10M share “out of future profits.” The only money Tesoro had to put up was US$50,000 to cover the administrative costs of arranging the financing and for this US$50,000 Tesoro received 49.9% of the Company.
The person who proposed, lobbied for and negotiated the deal was none other than John O’Halloran, Williams’s super Minister of Petroleum, Mines, Industry and Commerce and trusted confidant, the same O’Halloran who several years later was the subject of a TTPS-issued warrant on a charge of having received a US$1.39Million bribe from Sam P Wallace Overseas Corp to guarantee the firm would receive a lucrative contract to build the Caroni Racing Complex. O’Halloran subsequently told the media the US$1.39Million was a political contribution to the PNM which he claimed he deposited in the party’s coffers.
O’Halloran was an “untouchable” in the PNM because of his relationship with Williams. So close was their relationship that Williams named O’Halloran as the executor of his will.
What was the return on this investment for TT taxpayers?
In November 1985, Tesoro sold its 49.9% stake in Trinidad-Tesoro Petroleum Company Ltd. to the GORTT, which owned the other 50.1%.
The Chambers-led PNM Administration inked the purchase of this 49.9% of the Company (which Tesoro had only paid US$50,000) by agreeing, as payment, 3.23 million barrels of fuel oil from Trinidad over 18 months starting in May 1985. At the current market prices of the day, the oil would be valued at $69.4Million!
Will taxpayers allow this current PNM Administration to do what another PNM Administration did 53 years ago?
PETROTRIN has always been the PNM’s pot of goal from the day the refinery was acquired from Texaco.
The PNM must never be allowed to forget that during the second Manning-led Administration, then PETROTRIN’s Executive Chairman Malcolm Jones spent $3.3Billion to commence the now-infamous GTL Project which was scrapped in 2009. Under the PP Govt, PETROTRIN sued Jones, alleging he breached his fiduciary duty in approving the payment of US$109,407,892 in cost overruns in the failed GTL project and this case was unceremoniously discontinued by the Rowley-led Administration when it came into office in 2015.
In just over three years, the Rowley-led PNM Administration turned oil-rich TT from an exporter of oil and gas to a country which now must import oil and gas.
PETROTRIN, TT’s prized jewel, was the main source of the country earning foreign exchange; now, the country is being forced to spend over US$250 million annually to import the fuel we once produced!