Puerto Rico to host 11th Americas Competitiveness Exchange

SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares announced Wednesday that Puerto Rico was selected as the venue for the 11th edition of the Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ACE 11) to be held May 18-25 in more than 10 of the island’s municipalities.

ACE brings together decision-makers from the Western Hemisphere and beyond to explore global and regional partnerships, and economic development opportunities to establish new global commercial relationships, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) and Economic Development Administration (EDA), which organizes the vent in coordination with the U.S. Department of State and the Organization of American States (OAS).

ACE 11 is expected to bring together 50 senior-level government, business, policy and economic decision-makers from 25 countries to experience first-hand the range of projects, investments, public-private partnerships and best practices from the region’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems.

“ACE will be held in the Caribbean region for the first time. We are pleased that, after months of hard work by the Department of Economic Development and Commerce [DDEC by its Spanish acronym] to achieve that Puerto Rico be the venue for this important international event, the organizers of the event have selected our Island to celebrate ACE 11, after evaluating multiple requests,” the governor said.

The leaders selected to participate in the week-long program tour innovation hubs, advanced technology centers, leading firms and educational and research institutions to explore local, regional, urban, and rural economic development models, share experiences and knowledge, and build networks among the local and visiting stakeholders to enhance innovation and competitiveness in the Americas.
The ACEs are designed to build cooperation networks that promote sustainable and inclusive economic development and increased trade.

“This fills us with pride and motivates us to be the best hosts ACE has had, with the participation of companies, organizations and institutions that are models of economic development in Puerto Rico,” Economic Development Secretary Manuel Laboy said.

He stressed that science, technology and innovation “are pillars of the new economic project and are included in the Government Plan.”

Puerto Rico’s selection will be announced in Sacramento, Calif. on Friday, at the closing of ACE 10, when Laboy will deliver a presentation about what can be expected in May on the island.

Liberty Latin America acquires remaining 40% of Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN – Telecommunications provider Liberty Latin America Ltd. announced Thursday that it has acquired the remaining 40 percent stake in San Juan-based Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico, “from funds affiliated” with investment firm Searchlight Capital Partners L.P. in exchange for 9.5 million Liberty Latin America Class C shares.

Colorado-based Liberty Latin America will now own Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico entirely. The latter provides video, broadband internet and fixed-line telephony services on the island to nearly 1.1 million homes, “and served 738,500 revenue generating units consisting of 313,100 broadband Internet subscribers, 232,100 video subscribers, and 193,300 fixed-line telephony subscribers,” as of Dec. 31.

Liberty Latin America operates in more than 20 Latin America and Caribbean countries under the consumer brands VTR, Flow, Liberty, Más Móvil, BTC and Cabletica. Besides communications and entertainment services, it offers enterprise-grade connectivity, data center services, hosting and other information technology solutions to businesses and agencies. It also operates a sub-sea and terrestrial fiber optic cable network that connects more than 40 markets in the region.

Liberty Latin America has three separate classes of common shares, which are traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbols “LILA” (Class A) and “LILAK” (Class C), and on the OTC link under the symbol “LILAB” (Class B).

The transaction is expected to be “accretive on a free cash flow per share basis for LLA shareholders.” the announcing release explained.


“I want to thank [Liberty Cablevision] CEO Naji Khoury and the entire team at Liberty Puerto Rico for their dedication in transforming the company from a regional cable operator to the island-wide provider of market-leading broadband, pay TV and voice services in Puerto Rico. We are proud of the team’s tireless effort and leadership in rebuilding Liberty Puerto Rico’s network after Hurricane Maria devastated the island,” Eric Zinterhofer, founding partner of Searchlight, which has offices in New York, London and Toronto, said in the release.

“We are pleased to announce this transaction, which reflects the confidence in our Puerto Rican management team and affirms our commitment to Puerto Rico as our business there recovers strongly following a difficult period for the island. At the same time, this further cements our strong relationship with Searchlight and I look forward to continuing to work alongside Eric as a member of our board,” added Balan Nair, president and CEO of Liberty Latin America.

Cruise industry to focus on opportunities at FCCA conference in Puerto Rico

(Screen capture of www.prconvention.com)

SAN JUAN – The workshop topics and panels have been finalized for the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Cruise Conference & Trade Show, the largest of their kind in the Caribbean, which will take place at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan on Nov. 5-9 this year.

The event by nonprofit trade organization is for attendees to learn about the cruise industry during an agenda filled with business sessions, networking, workshops and preset one-on-one meetings between delegates and cruise executives. Evening functions and tours are scheduled to also “help develop relationships and show some of Puerto Rico’s enchantment and local flavor, and a Trade Show featuring exclusive executive viewings and special events to drive participation from attendees and executives,” according to the announcing release.

Government representatives and some 150 cruise industry executives, “who represent 95 percent of global ocean cruising capacity,” are expected for the event, the FCCA said.

The conference workshops will focus on “key elements to foster long-standing mutual success between cruise lines and destination stakeholders. Plus, for the first time in the event’s 25-year history, chairmen of cruise lines and corporations will take the helm, with presidents and CEOs steering a separate workshop,” the release reads.

A “record 10 chairmen, presidents and/or CEOs from FCCA member lines” will present “unique perspectives and an all-encompassing view” of the industry, the FCCA said.

“From the ultimate decision-makers to high-level executives that determine where ships call, what sells on board and how to invest in destinations and products, the cruise industry will truly be on hand – and focused on maximizing synergies and potential opportunities with the audience,” FCCA President Michele Paige said.

Following the opening ceremony Nov. 6, participating chairmen of FCCA member lines—Micky Arison, chairman, Carnival Corporation & plc; Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.; and Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman, MSC Cruises—will host, “Chair Talk,” to point out trends and developments “driving the industry’s record success and future growth, along with how it all relates to specific topics, and can grow business, for the stakeholders in attendance,” the FCCA said.

Later that day, Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International; Arnold Donald, president and CEO, Carnival Corp.; Christine Duffy, president, Carnival Cruise Line; Jason Montague, president and CEO, Regent Seven Seas Cruises; and Andrew Stuart, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line, will join the moderator and FCCA’s Paige to deliver the “Presidential Address.”

They will discuss “some of the differentiations and innovations driving the unique cruise brands that are going all in to stand out and appeal to their target markets both on board and on land – and how and why working together with destinations and stakeholders leads to benefits for all.”

High-level executives representing numerous sectors throughout the industry will get the floor Nov. 7. Carlos Torres de Navarra, vice president, global port and destination development, Carnival, will moderate “Creating Great Destinations: From Demand to Experiences, Ports to Tours” with a panel including Russell Benford, vice president, government relations, Americas, Royal Caribbean Cruises; Russell Daya, executive director, marine and port operations, port developments and itinerary planning, Disney Cruise Line; Albino Di Lorenzo, vice president, cruise operations, MSC Cruises USA; Chrstine Manjencic, vice president, destination service operations, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.; and Matthew Sams, vice president, Caribbean relations and private islands, Holland America Group.

They will “share what draws passengers to destinations and creates unforgettable memories once there, revealing how to increase both demand and guest satisfaction from an overarching destination level to individual port, tour and transportation options,” the FCCA said.

The final workshop will take place Nov. 8 and gather representatives from both the cruise line and destination sides, including Adam Goldstein, vice chairman, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and chairman, FCCA; Richard Sasso, chairman, MSC Cruises USA; Giora Israel, senior vice president, global port development, Carnival Corp.; Hon. Allen Chastanet, prime minister, Saint Lucia, and chairman, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS); and Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of tourism, U.S. Virgin Islands.

In “Investing in Your Future,” they will review ways in which both parties are “preparing for their long-term futures, and how those plans often involve partnership with each other, from port and destination developments, new attractions and even agreements preserving natural elements, to business continuity, emergency plans and best practices.”

“I look forward to interacting with cruise tourism’s key stakeholders at the FCCA Cruise Conference & Trade Show,” said Goldstein. “This is a valuable opportunity for regional destinations and operators to learn how they are being affected by and can take advantage of the industry’s latest developments.”

For more information and registration, visit www.F-CCA.com/Conference.


Liberty Puerto Rico: Nearly all customers reconnected after Hurricane Maria

SAN JUAN – Liberty Puerto Rico–which offers video, internet and telephony for residential and business customers–made several announcements Thursday, emphasizing that its network-restoration process following last year’s hurricane season is nearly complete, and continues working “on the remaining small pockets of customers left without service.”

The company said that more than 90% of its residential customers and 100% of its B2B (business-to-business) fiber customers have been reconnected. It also reported that its second quarter (Q2 2018) sales surpassed those of the same period last year.

“We are basically back to business as usual and the results demonstrate it,” said Naji Khoury, president of Liberty Puerto Rico. “Q2 2018 was a good quarter for us. Our quarterly sales numbers were the highest since August 2015. Also, Liberty’s business division continues to grow driven by our fast recovery and quality of service.”

During the quarter, the company introduced such products as a new video-on-demand platform and an electronics protection plan, Smart Protect.

The company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures customer satisfaction, reached the highest level since it started using the tool in 2016.

“As more Puerto Ricans returned to the island during the recovery period, we saw a significant increase in the volume of customers calling to have their services reconnected,” Khoury added. “We are also registering a higher number of customers that are very satisfied with their services, which tells us that our efforts and investments to provide the best customer experience possible are paying off.”

Naji Khoury, president of Liberty Puerto Rico (Courtesy)

Despite the damages caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria, Liberty is Ookla Puerto Rico’s Speedtest Awards winner for fixed-network speed during Q3–Q4 2017. It achieved top download and upload speeds of 62.8 megabits per second (Mbps) and 9.31 Mbps, respectively.

Khoury said the company has started executing a plan to bury fiber and has also established agreements with suppliers “for easier and faster access to fuel, materials, generators, and labor pool, if necessary,” as part of its preparation efforts for future natural disasters and emergencies.

Puerto Rico governor travels to South America

SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló left Sunday evening for Bogotá, Colombia, to participate in the inauguration of President Iván Duque.

Rosselló’s office said he will also participate in a multisector trade mission with several Puerto Rican companies.

The topics to be discussed will focus on trade, housing, agriculture, and exports. In addition, Rivera Marín will meet with the president of the National Business Association of Colombia, (ANDI by its Spanish acronym), Bruce Mac Master, and with the chairman and majority shareholder of Avianca, Germán Efromovich. The airline operates a daily flight between Bogotá and San Juan. Also, Rivera Marín indicated that he may meet with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, according to a separate release issued by Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín.

“We are going to express to the president-elect the solidarity of the government of Ricardo Rosselló with the new government he is going to establish in Colombia, with the certainty that it will be one that will fully respond to the best interests of his people and will identify with international politics regarding human rights and the freedoms of its inhabitants. In Puerto Rico, we have a community of about 7,000 Colombians who contribute to our economy, and as part of the Governor’s public policy, we want to strengthen these relationships, including export possibilities through the Department of Economic Development (DDEC) and the Company of Trade and Export,” Rivera Marín said.

Rivera Marín added: “It is an opportunity to work with the incoming government of President Iván Duque, to promote the economic development of both Puerto Rico and Colombia and strengthen our economic and political role in the region, which can serve as a bridge between Latin America and the United States; we are the Connector of the Americas.”

Afterward, the governor will travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina, with first lady Beatriz Rosselló, who will be recognized at the Young Leaders Foundation’s 11th international summit.

The governor will hold meetings with Argentinian officials to discuss trade, politics and economic development of Puerto Rico, according to La Fortaleza, which added that Rosselló will speak at an academic session of the Argentine Council for International Relations, titled “Puerto Rico y los latinos en Estados Unidos,” to “discuss the importance and role of Latinos in decision-making in the United States,” La Fortaleza said.

Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez will serve as interim governor until Wednesday afternoon, when Rivera Marín takes over as interim governor until Rosselló returns Saturday.

“We are going to express to the president-elect the solidarity of the government of Ricardo Rosselló with the new government he is going to establish in Colombia, with the certainty that it will be one that will fully respond to the best interests of his people and will identify with international politics regarding human rights and the freedoms of its inhabitants. In Puerto Rico, we have a community of about 7,000 Colombians who contribute to our economy, and as part of the Governor’s public policy, we want to strengthen these relationships, including export possibilities through the Department of Economic Development (DDEC) and the Company of Trade and Export,” Rivera Marín said in separate release.

EVERTEC posts 10% growth in 2nd quarter

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico-based transaction processor EVERTEC Inc. said Tuesday that its results for the second quarter, ended June 30, included a 10% revenue growth, to $113.3 million compared with $103.5 million last year.

The company said revenue growth in the quarter reflected the impact of the acquisition of PayGroup as well as “elevated sales volumes in Puerto Rico driven by post-hurricane recovery activity, federal relief and benefit programs and insurance proceeds.”

“We are pleased with our second quarter financial results and given our expectation for the remainder of the year, we have increased our 2018 guidance,” Mac Schuessler, president and CEO stated in the release.

The company manages a system of electronic payment networks that process more than two billion transactions annually and offers bank and cash processing services as well as and technology outsourcing. It also owns and operates the ATH network, a personal identification number debit network in 26 Latin American countries.

See an EVERTEC presentation of its financial results here.

A replay of the company’s conference call to discuss the results can be found on the investor relations website at ir.evertecinc.com.


Discover Puerto Rico sets foundation to boost market reach

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the July 26 – Aug. 1 print issue of Caribbean Business.

A fully implemented plan from Puerto Rico’s destination marketing organization (DMO) is expected in January, explained Leah Chandler, chief marketing officer (CMO) of the DMO, which recently announced its official name is “Discover Puerto Rico.”

The organization currently has three outside research projects that are expected to provide data within the week or by early August to help the organization’s marketing and sales team identify Puerto Rico’s target audience, Chandler explained.

“We are holding online focus groups right now, trying to understand how [users] expect to use the DMO website. We are completing brand-perception testing right now, trying to get a sense of both the domestic market in the States and also international markets, about how people perceive Puerto Rico,” the CMO said.

She indicated that the reason the focus right now is not on creating a strategy is because the organization wants to switch from a “kind of shotgun approach,” where everyone is being approached by a broad message, rather than something more tailored to the specific groups. To make that change, the new DMO needed to gather more information than what had been previously collected.

“There’s stuff we’ve worked with in the past, in terms of data, but it is not really primary research. It is research we’ve received secondarily or is general market research; it hasn’t been specific to Puerto Rico,” Chandler stated, mentioning Google Analytics and Facebook Insights as some of the tools that have been used before.

“When you look at different marketing platforms, different marketing programs, it is very easy to say, ‘we can target baby boomers, we can target millennials, we can target Gen Z,’” Chandler added. “All of them are potential targets for Puerto Rico, but where is the lowest hanging fruit? Who are going to be the most valuable visitors to us?”

Looking for this “low hanging fruit,” Chandler explained, is not just about the age group but also staying connected to markets such as New York, Philadelphia and Boston, among others, in which the island has already proven to be successful and there already is “good airlift” before expanding the brand to newer markets.

One of the tools the organization is using is Visa View, which gives them information about visitors who used this credit card. This tool has already produced interesting results because it shows Puerto Rico is receiving a lot of attention from Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago, which were not usually seen as target markets for the island. But Chandler was quick to point out that the next step is to understand why Puerto Rico is receiving attention from these locations.

In her previous DMO for a city in Missouri, Chandler was responsible for a 79 percent increase in their marketing reach. While gathering the data and implementing the new plan may come with different challenges, the CMO is confident she can produce similar results for Puerto Rico.

“I say all the time that there’s a formula. There’s a formula for DMO marketing. It’s research-based. It’s consumer-centric. It’s making sure we are not the focus, that our visitors are the focus. When we are really listening to them, and understanding what their needs are, it’s easy to develop a plan that will work,” she explained.

Personal aspect of taking the job

Prior to coming to the island, Chandler had spent the past 10 years as chief marketing officer for the Branson / Lake Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is the DMO for Branson City in Missouri’s Taney County. Chandler explained that a previous offer she had received via the headhunter had not convinced her. However, as soon as she received the phone call for the CMO position with Puerto Rico’s incipient DMO, she felt it was an instant fit.

“My initial reaction, when the recruiter started talking about building a DMO from the ground up and having the opportunity to create my own team, was having the opportunity to build a brand from the ground up, having support from private industry and knowing this has been so long in the making for this island…. It’s honestly still an emotional thing for me to think we can have such an impact here that long after I’m gone, long after Brad [Dean] is gone and the people around the marketing committee table are gone that this is going to be in place,” the CMO recounted.

Aside from her professional growth, Chandler added that she is excited about the possibility that enhancing tourism will help in the island’s recovery.

“I’ve always felt like tourism has had an impact, wherever you go. Tourism, I think it changes lives. I think when children are exposed at a young age to travel and to cultures that are different than theirs, it changes their views, it changes their level of tolerance. I’ve always felt there is transformative power in travel. It creates jobs. It creates an economic engine,” Chandler said.

Latin American consortium vying to manage Puerto Rico Highway 52

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the July 26 – Aug. 1 print issue of Caribbean Business.

A consortium of Peruvian and Mexican investors is already eyeing the possibility of taking over management of PR52, known as the Luis A. Ferré Expressway, in a public-private partnership (P3) with the government.

The fiscal plan for the Highways & Transportation Authority (HTA) calls for a hike in all tolls on PR52 and a study to be completed by 2020 to determine the viability of operating the highway through a P3. The 5.5 percent hike in tolls is slated to take place starting in 2019.

Even though the government has not issued requests for proposal to privatize PR52, there is a marked interest to establish one. Alberto Colón, president of Multibanco International, an international financial entity that began operations this year, said he was approached by a Latin American client about opening an account to participate in P3s with the government.

Colón said the client is involved in highway construction and maintenance in Latin America but declined to reveal the name, citing confidentiality concerns.

“This client is mostly interested in the privatization, for which the public notice has yet to come out, of Luis A. Ferré Expressway, and it is understandable because Puerto Rico does not have money to maintain highways, which is one that also needs to be extended,” he said during an interview about international banks.

The Public-Private Partnerships Authority, in written remarks to Caribbean Business, said the privatization of PR52 has yet to be referred to the entity, which then refers all questions to the P.R. Fiscal Agency & Financial Advisory Authority, which stated the process to complete the viability study is underway.

HTA Director Carlos Contreras opposes the control board’s fiscal plan because it calls for toll hikes to adapt to inflation and a 15 percent payroll cut, which would be difficult to execute. The plan calls for the HTA to reduce traffic congestion to help grow the gross domestic product by reducing travel time. Among the initiatives to reduce road congestion are to implement a dynamic tollgate lane for PR52. There are also plans to build a traffic management center in Caguas, as well as improvements to the traffic signal system.

Some 72,000 people return to Puerto Rico in first 4 months of 2018

SAN JUAN – The Institute of Statistics of Puerto Rico released updated data Friday on the movement of passengers on domestic flights up to April, as reported by airlines to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

A summary of the results follows:

–In the last four months of last year (September to December 2017) during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, some -200,000 net passengers left on domestic flights.

–In contrast, in the first four months of the year (January to April 2018), some 72,000 people arrived in Puerto Rico in net terms on domestic flights.

–This represents a remarkable change with respect to previous years. For example, for the same period the previous year (January to April 2017), instead of a net arrival of passengers, almost 40,000 net airline passengers had left.

–In the first 10 months of fiscal year 2018, there has been a net movement of air passengers in domestic flights of almost -155,000 air passengers. In the last three calendar years (2014, 2015 and 2016), the net movement of air passengers on domestic flights, -89,000 passengers left on average per year.

“We’ve been trying to identify a pattern of return after Hurricane Maria. Finally, these data confirm that trend. Although the figure does not indicate that a similar number of people have returned among those who left after the Hurricane, the data suggest that this process of return has begun. We will have to see how the movement of passengers behaves during this summer to have a more complete picture.

“But, for the moment, these data suggest that for the 2017-18 fiscal year there will be a net migration of approximately between -150,000 and -170,000 people. If so, this will represent an increase of the migration wave Puerto Rico had been experiencing before the Hurricane, which hovered around 90,000 a year before Hurricane Maria. But, at the same time, it will represent a substantially lower increase than the -250,000 people that had been projected in the last Fiscal Plan,” Dr. Mario Marazzi-Santiago, executive director of the institute, said in a release.

Net movement of passengers on domestic flights arriving in Puerto Rico. (thousands of passengers)

The data can be downloaded at https://indicadores.pr/dataset/vuelos-pasajeros-aereos-y-carga-puerto-rico

The Puerto Rico Statistics Institute is an autonomous government entity tasked with coordinating the government’s statistics production service “to ensure the data collection and statistics systems, on which public policies are based, are complete, reliable and have rapid and universal access,” according to its mission statement.

It has roughly 300 statistical products in inventory and provides access to more than 100 data sets through www.data.pr.gov and over 40 tables and more than 6,000 indicators through www.indicadores.pr.

In addition, as the leading entity of the State Data Center (SDC) of Puerto Rico, the institute manages the SDC portal, which contains the main statistical reports and publications on Puerto Rico by the U.S. Census Bureau such as annual population estimates, the Puerto Rico Community Survey and official statistics on the decennial population and housing censuses of the island.

Data collection for Economic Census of Puerto Rico begins

Spirit Airlines: 9 new destinations, 5 domestic routes begin in September

SAN JUAN – Starting Oct. 4, Spirit Airlines will begin offering service from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to 11 destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean, including daily flights to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, as well as three more domestic routes shortly afterward.

Among the new routes are four weekly flights between Orlando and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, (SDQ) from Oct. 4 to Nov. 7, and daily flights starting Nov. 8, all subject to government approval. Also, the airline will carry out three weekly flights between Orlando and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, (STT) starting Nov. 8.

“We have been proud to serve Orlando for 25 years, and after more than doubling service last year, we are so proud to be expanding there yet again,” Bob Fornaro, Spirit’s CEO, said in the announcing release. “The region is not only a wonderful, family-friendly destination, but it is well-positioned to now serve as a gateway to the Carribean and Latin America.”Spirit will now provide the Orlando region with nonstop service to and from 38 destinations, with up to 49 daily flights across the U.S., the Caribbean, and Latin America.

*Subject to government approval. ǂSales of nonstop flights between Orlando and Bogota will commence at a date to be announced in the near future. (Source: Spirit Airlines)