Oceanic acquires majority stake in Centennial unit

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

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.

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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.