Government of Belize expropriates Electric Company

On June 20, 2011, the government of Belize expropriated the 70% ownership interest in the Belize Electric Company (BEL) held by the shareholder-owned, Canada-based energy giant Fortis.

Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL), a hydroelectric business also owned by Fortis, has not been expropriated yet. It is worth noting that Fortis has invested more than USD 400 million in Belize.

Belize Electric Company has USD 27 million in debt. The company’s officials blame the insolvency on the government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, claiming they were forced to sell electricity in Belize at rates lower than the cost in order to acquire the power from the state-owned CFE (Comision Federal de Electricidad) electric company in neighboring Mexico. As a result of the nationalization, Standard & Poor’s put Belizean sovereign bonds on its downgrade watch list.

This is not the first expropriation of the company in this offshore jurisdiction.

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