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CEMEX director in charge

By Verne Burnett Thursday, August 21 2014

The newly elected board of directors of Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) has suspended TCL’s group chief executive officer (CEO), Dr Rollin Bertrand, in one of their first decisions following their election at a special compulsory shareholders’ meeting at the Radisson Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain on Tuesday.

Bertrand has been suspended as group CEO as well as relieved of executive responsibility for all subsidiaries.

Long-standing director, Alejandro Alberto Ramirez was appointed as acting CEO. Ramirez is country director of CEMEX Puerto Rico. CEMEX, the Mexican cement giant with international subisidaries, is the largest shareholder in TCL with a 20 percent stake.

Businessman Wilfred Espinet, appointed chairman of TCL, yesterday said the board thought the suspension of the group CEO was the best move until it was able to complete a review of his performance within recent times.

He said, “there was a lot of animosity which had developed and we needed something of an assessment of things before we were able to just go back in there and have any control over the process.”

The board also decided to conduct two assessments, one a financial assessment and the other an operational assessment of the company’s situation. “From these two we would know the requirements to carry the company forward,” Espinet said, adding that the board had mandated that these assessments be completed within 60 days.

Espinet is currently chairman of Aeromarine International Logistics Company, which has operations in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. He is also chairman of Mayfair, a cosmetics retailer which has outlets throughout the Caribbean.

Espinet said the mood at the first board meeting was an upbeat one similar to that which prevailed at the shareholders’ meeting, adding that the same level of excitement and enthusiasm rolled over into the board meeting.

“In that they were very seriously aware of the challenges that they are faced with because they all now have to put serious work in to help this company to be stabilised,” he said. “We have to build relationships with all of our stakeholders. That is, we have to do so with employees, we have to do so with shareholders, we have to do so with our bankers, we have to do so with our customers (and) with the wider public. That is a big job that we have to do and we have to undertake a serious attempt to change the culture of governance that we have.”

Espinet said the company’s high level of debt will also require the board’s urgent attention. “Not least of all is that they have outstanding backpay and all kinds of things to deal with.”

Despite Tuesday’s victory for shareholders, Espinet called for realism in terms of what could be immediately achieved. He said, “Expectations from everyone is at a great high now. The board could say with some degree of comfort that within a short space of time the share price has gone up 20 percent so that has been a big return, but one has to be realistic in what can be achieved in what timeframe.” He said the board would like to see the next annual general meeting of the company convened within 90 days.

He said part of the financial study the board has commissioned is to find out “what resources we will be able to access to be able to do the plan — to pay the commitments that we have and to deal with the ongoing viability of the plant. This has to be the priority - how do you make this plant operate so that we will be able to meet out commitments.”

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