Telecommunications - Jamaica

Oceanic acquires majority stake in Centennial unit

Oceanic acquires majority stake in Centennial unit

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Caribbean region mobile operator Oceanic Digital Communications has increased its stake in Centennial Digital Jamaica by two percentage points, giving it a 51% controlling interest in the company, Jamaican press reported.

The transaction reverses the 49% to 51% ownership balance between Oceanic and the company's former controlling shareholder Centennial Communications (Nasdaq: CYCL).

Centennial Digital Jamaica launched operations in November 2001 in the capital Kingston and the surrounding area.

Oceanic was the firm that actually paid the Jamaican Government US$45mn for one of two 800MHz cellular licenses auctioned in 1999. It later sold 51% of the local operating company to Centennial, with the partnership adopting the Centennial name.

Since receiving the license, the company has invested US$100mn and expects to spend another US$60mn-80mn in the next two years.

Centennial's CEO of Caribbean operations Carlos Bofill told BNamericas in a recent interview they started out in Jamaica focusing on a small area around the capital, to ensure service quality, but are now working to obtain island-wide coverage.

To that end, the company signed a contract in March 2002 with Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) to build a digital CDMA wireless network in Jamaica. Centennial Digital Jamaica also received US$75mn vendor financing from Lucent (NYSE: LU) for the purchase of equipment, software and professional services.

In a second phase service will be extended from Kingston to the tourist centers Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. In a third phase the company will cover the entire island.

Centennial competes with fellow startup Digicel and former incumbent Cable & Wireless (NYSE: CWP) in Jamaica. Centennial has about 50,000 subscribers, compared to roughly 350,000 each counted by Digicel and C&W Jamaica.