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Veteran St. Lucian businessman Michael Chastanet has assured that there will be no job losses as a result of the acquisition of majority shares by regional conglomerate Neal & Massy in Consolidated Foods Limited (CFL), St. Lucia’s largest supermarket and retail chain.
Chastanet, the former chairman of CFL, expressed confidence that CFL employees will remain employed under the new foreign control.
“There will be no job losses at all. At least, the only way job losses can occur is if the economy sinks down and something happens but i don’t see that happening, okay. There will be no job losses at all. I can say that quite emphatically, that there will be no job losses. As a matter of fact, that matter I think was discussed with the prime minister even before, and he was concerned about possible job losses,” Chastanet told DBS television.
In a press release announcing the business deal, Chastanet said after 20 years in the supermarket industry, he along with his immediate partners Andre Chastanet and Oswald Augustin, have made a “strategic decision to transition the ownership of Gablewoods Supermarket to the regional conglomerate, the Neal & Massy Group, who has been a shareholder of Gablewoods Supermarket since 2002”.
As of January 1, 2014, Neal & Massy is the sole shareholder of Gablewoods Supermarket and by extension, majority shareholder of Consolidated Foods Limited (CFL), which is the operating entity for CFL’s retail stores, Chastanet said.
Forty percent of CFL remains in local hands while 60 percent will be held by Neal & Massy. Gablewoods Supermarket, JQ Charles and the over 200 staff members are now the sole owners of CFL.
In the DBS interview, Chastanet, who is the father of United Workers Party leader Allen Chastanet, addressed concerns about the foreign ownership.
“… They (Neal& Massy) do have controlling interest but 40 percent is a big shareholding. So, from that aspect there, it’s not a matter of going all into the hands of a Trinidadian per se, you know. They have to work with the partners. The 1500 staff are very meaningful to them. They have to work with those people,” he said.
Chastanet is confident in Neal & Massy, which he describes as “an established regional company” which controls and operates the Hi-Lo chain of supermarkets in Trinidad as well as the Super Centre Supermarkets in Barbados.
“We have no doubt that Neal & Massy will provide their proven expertise to a company like CFL, which has become a household name and more importantly, a company built on local input, since its inception. As a locally grown entity, we recognize the need to now compete on a global scale and remain competitive and viable.
“We have faith that with the leadership and proven track record of Neal & Massy, in the retail business, the supermarkets will attain world class standards and service while creating even more value and opportunities for all of its stakeholders including our employees.”
He added: “After 60 years as a Saint Lucian businessman, I am confident that under this new ownership, our valued operations will continue to enjoy the success and stability which has benefited all employees, local shareholders, suppliers and stakeholders. To the entire staff of CFL and all St. Lucians who have devoutly supported the company, we wish to say thanks in many ways and above all on behalf of the CFL staff and its directors past and present, we extend best wishes, health, happiness, and prosperity to all St. Lucians for 2014 and beyond.”
Regarding the reason behind his decision to sell his shares, Chastanet told DBS: “Because of where I am at this time of my life, I felt that CFLl needed another great push, like it got 20 years ago, to take it to another level. And it was those factors which I considered, which i wouldn’t say made me, but persuaded me to move in that direction. No decision is ever perfect in life but in my humble opinion I feel that what Neal & Massy can bring to the table today would be very good.”
Chastanet could not say whether the new owners will change the name of CFL. He said the prices may remain the same.
CFL owns Super J IGA stores in St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Mega J in Choc, St. Lucia is also owned by CFL as well as Save-A-Lot in St. Vincent.
For information about Neal & Massy, visit http://www.neal-and-massy.com/Home/ and for more information about CFL visit http://www.superjsupermarkets.com/cfl/index.php