Spark New Zealand, formerly known as Telecom New Zealand, has received several bids for its 60 per cent stake in Telecom Cook Islands (TCI) – a state-owned enterprise.
William Framhein from Mervin Communications has ownership interests in Orama Limited, a Cook Islands entity which has bid to purchase Telecom Cook Islands from Spark New Zealand.
Framhein says recent media coverage outlines in detail the structure of Teleraro Limited, the entity that Spark New Zealand are considering as their preferred bidder for purchasing their shares in TCI.
Framhein says that if this coverage is accurate, then Teleraro Limited is no more a Cook Islands entity than is Digicel.
“Coverage states that Teleraro is 75 per cent directly owned by the foreign entity, Bluesky Samoa, with the remaining 25 per cent to be purchased on behalf of local individuals by Bluesky Samoa and held in trust for them to buy later.”
“The bidding process in which Teleraro and Orama took part was undertaken by Spark New Zealand purely to fulfil its obligations under the Development Investment Act following its earlier announcement that it intended to sell its shares to Digicel,” said Framhein.
The Development Investment Act requires Spark New Zealand to demonstrate that it, “has taken reasonable steps to endeavour to transfer the shares … to a Cook Islander.”
If it cannot do so, then the Business Trade and Investment Board is obligated to uphold the Development Investment Act and block the sale of Telecom Cook Islands shares to Teleraro, he said.
The Development Investment Act provides a very specific definition of what constitutes a Foreign Enterprise and what constitutes a Cook Islander, he said.
“In simple terms a Foreign Enterprise is any entity that is a third or more owned by an entity that is not a Cook Islander and a Cook Islander is a Cook Islands resident person or company.
“There is no doubt that Teleraro as described, is a Foreign Enterprise.”
The Investment Code, which forms part of the Development Act, captures the spirit of the law perfectly, stating “investment by Cook Islanders should be given priority,” he said.
Spark New Zealand says that as all parties involved have signed nondisclosure agreements no comments will be made on the sale of Telecom Cook Islands, and no date on a decision has been made.
Telecom Cook Island’s CEO John Proctor finished last week, and Helen Aoina and Ngatama Aniterea have taken over as acting CEOs.
A permanent CEO will not be appointed until the sale of Telecom Cook Islands is completed.