SANTANDER defends investment in Belize

Beset by allegations that they are taking advantage of a weakened banking system and robbing Belizeans of more lucrative investments, the Santander Sugar Group has mounted a defense of its more than 200 million-Belize-dollar investment in sugar cane production. According to Chief Financial Officer for the Group Andres Ayau, while the company may be new to Belize, its investors are not new to sugar. Critics of the deal have raised multiple objections, chief among them that the company can afford to replace the 12-million-dollar loan they had planned to get from the Social Security Board from its parent company, Santander Investment Group. Ayau pointed out that the Sugar Group and the Santander Investment Group which includes Banco Santander are not related and this is a misconception. Another argument is that the vlcsnap-2016-02-15-11h27m00s468group is based in Guatemala and due to the unresolved claim by Guatemala to Belize, we should refrain from doing any kind of business with our western neighbour. Ayau does not buy that argument; in fact, he suggested that Belizeans should “get over it.”  The group also had a respectful reply to Governor of the Central Bank Glenford Ysaguirre, who on KREM’s Sunday Review earlier this week mentioned that the regulator is keeping an eye on the investment, as multiple Belize banks are involved with the syndicated loan. Ayau says he disagrees that the syndicated loan represents a “systemic risk” to the Belizean banking system. The group’s collateral – all lands, equipment, and other assets, total 165 million US dollars as of the last valuation; the loan is for 95 million US dollars, making it, in Ayau’s view, easy to cover if something goes wrong for some reason. He pointed out that the company is well past the most risky stage of the investment – the construction – and the returns will appear now that the company is going into full production

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