One would have imagined that a financial outfit such as NCB, anchored by the Umbrella group Owned and Operated By Billionaire Michael Lee-Chin, should have known that financial markets do not like uncertainty. And imagining this to be so, one can hardly explain logically, the recent release to the Jamaica Stock Exchange that Michael Lee-Chin, would be taking a “Leave of Absence from NCB and its affiliated companies, for a period expected to be 3 months, with immediate effect.
Now, we are talking about a market here, yet to jettison the jitters it picked up with the news of Global Sprint-Star, Usain Bolt losing 12-Million US Dollars due to the mismanagement and fraud subsequently uncovered at the SLL, Croskery Operated brokerage firm.
Not only had the market not jettisoned the jitters it picked up with that particular episode, but the banking and financial sectors have also been making the News recently, and for all the wrong reasons, with news of fraud, arrests, and armed attacks on armoured vehicles, the hi-jacking and or attempted hi-jacking of ATMs; and numerous reports of robberies made for a volatile market and created a foundation for despair and or panic, by the society, with regards to the Financial sector.
And if all of that was not enough to cause panic, then the Talk of the Prime Minister of A Cashless, society, was enough to scare the daylights out of most, but especially the underserved, so you know we are talking about a society reeling from all kinds of punches here.
In fact, in recent months, society has become so skittish, that many Citizens, who venture out to do some banking business, will voluntarily opt to execute those chores another day, if when they enter the Banking space, they see a Berrylium armoured vehicle in that space, as they have concluded, based on recent reportage, that these vehicles are potential targets for well-armed hoodlums, bent on grabbing the money supposedly being transported by these vehicles, and have demonstrated that they are prepared to kill anyone who gets in their way, directly or indirectly. And so with survival uppermost in their minds, the citizens’ operational mode, is one that places security at the top of their agenda, resulting in the ‘safe rather than sorry’ mantra kicking in, which sees the citizens taking themselves away from what they regard as potential battle zones, whenever, they see an armoured vehicle entering a public space.
The sense of clear and present mortal danger permeating these public spaces whenever an armoured vehicle or Berrylium-branded vehicle ventures in public spaces, has been conflated to translate an emotional, telegraphic message to the mind that all banking spaces are unsafe, and are to be regarded with due caution. To date however, there has not been any run on the banking and or financial sectors, as these two sectors are regarded, and rightly so, as being relatively safe from the meltdown and or failings now being reported in the US.
But Jamaica and its proximity to the US, has left many with more than cause for concern, being mindful of the old adage, “When the US economy sneezes, the Jamaican economy catches a cold”.
And so, the advisory by the NCB Group to the Stock Exchange, that its Billionaire owner, would be taking a leave of absence from the group’s operation, could not have come at a worst possible time. Coming as it did, when questions were being asked globally about the Financial well-being of Michael Lee-Chin, with reports pouring in of his being on a sales blitz, divesting himself of a number of his real estate holdings, and expensive toys, with one story suggesting the sale of his prized Multimillion dollar yacht, which he recently acquired, was reportedly placed on the auction block, by the builders, who got a whopping 360-plus-million US Dollars, for it; plus other reported sales of some high-value real estate holdings in the Cayman Islands; the reported sale of his Blue Lagoon property in Port Antonio; Jamaica; plus reports that other real estate holdings in Jamaica and elsewhere, are also on the Market, had many wondering about his financial health.
Add to that reports that the recent acquisition of Guardian portfolio has proven more problematic than beneficial as it has not been doing well; couple that with the fact that it is being reported that both Guardian and NCB have not paid over any Dividends for the last two-plus years, with reported disquiet within the ranks of NCB employees, due to the fact that they were not offered a Bonus payout this year, as was expected and would have been in keeping with the Company’s corporate policy., All equated to disquiet, to those looking on, from outside the inner circle.
Now, all of this is against the background, that NCB itself was put up for sale some time ago. Now that NCB was placed on the market, was an indicator of anything being wrong, as indeed, it is said that Patrick Hylton, runs a tight ship. And it is to be noted, that both Scotia Bank and First Caribbean, both with Canadian Parent companies, reportedly, have been trying to divest themselves of their Banking Operations, not just in Jamaica, but in the Caribbean.
Unfortunately, the announcement by NCB and Michael Lee-Chin, of his leave of absence, just set off Multi-million dollar speculations about Lee-Chin’s Health, wealth and well-being; and not only raised more than a few eyebrows but caused some to question the future, viability and stability of the Bank, as well as its various subsidiaries?
Mind you, the consensus seems to be, that NCB is way too big a Bank, to Fail, or be allowed to fail, as the economic and political fallout would have earth-moving ramifications. So speculators say, there’s nothing to worry about, at the moment. But, as they seek to rightfully, reassure and calm creeping nerves, all eyes are glued to the Stock Market to see how it weighs in on the Clip from Michael Lee-Chin, thanking those who called and or expressed their concern, for his well-being, and the reassurances he gave, affirming his own good health and wealth.
But in the final analysis, the announcement did more harm, than good, and people are now asking to what end?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]