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Soltai Glory Days – And What Went Wrong

Dear Editor - I would like to thank Alphonso Waterman for his article on this paper on Friday 15th May 2009.

One thing I would like to stress is that my earlier article was not on Solomon Taiyo Ltd (STL) but Soltai; both were different companies all together.
As such to make a comparison between the two would be a futile exercise by anyone.

One of the major distinctive features was that STL had a wealthy shareholder, Maruha, whilst Soltai’s was not on that same privileged position.

The other thing worth mentioning is that STL had done a lot in developing Solomon Islands than any other companies in her 30 years operations since 1972. I do not think NFD or Soltai for that matter could match that at this point in time.

Just like some expatriates in early year 2000, who had predicted that Soltai would have gone broke within six months of operations, Alphonso is no different.

He has had this perception, self-centeredly embedded in his mind that local Solomon Islanders could not own or manage a fishing company of such a magnitude as Soltai.

For your record, Soltai had operated smoothly for the first six years until she started facing financial problems in 2007, due to issues and factors well beyond the grasp of the board and management.

You would only have to examine her financial reports to see how well she had performed during those years, considering her position, and the fact that there were no major cash injections at all from her shareholders.

The cash injections from the government (shareholder) came late in 2007 when she was already faced with a severe financial crisis.

For your information, in those early years of Soltai, the then board and management fully understood the pole and line situation, had vigorously pursued the idea of bringing in purseiners to replace the pole & line fleet.

The plan did not eventuate at that time, mainly because the company and the board did not have the funds, and foremost no support from the shareholders.
After all Soltai did not have a rich parent (shareholder) like NFD or STL then.

The management then pursued other options, one of which was the planned fishing joint venture with the Celebes Fishing Company.
This was vigorously blocked for a well known reason by an outside force that had vested interest in Soltai and fishing in 2007.

So the board and management then were put in a stagnant and precarious position - it was a fight between David and Goalith.

The real intention was that these political and outside interferences were done to prevent Soltai from getting out of the vulnerable financial position she was in, hence she was prone to an inevitable takeover and disband by the government.

The truth of the matter was that some fishing companies envied Soltai because of her established infrastructures like the cold stores and factories, her strategic fishing base location, easy access to good fishing grounds, established brand names and markets.

Therefore taking into accounts all these attributes and coupled with SI memberships in regional and international associations and forums such as PNA, and  SI's rich tuna location in the world tuna fisheries, would definitely put Soltai in an ideal position for a corporate takeover by any fishing company who would wish to consolidate her presence in the global tuna trade.

To understand this scenario, it is like discovering a huge gold deposit in a land somewhere, the location is attractive and excellent for gold mining operations.
What needs to be done before earning good money, is to raise funds for operations, and the gold can be mined and sold at lucrative prices. In this example, Soltai would be perceived as both the land and gold deposits.

So you see that it was not a simple case of Soltai facing a financial crisis in 2007, but included unseen and dirty maneuverings played by interested parties who had power, money and influences.

All in all, this had contributed so much to the destabilisation of Soltai which has so much resulted in the shaping of the Soltai of today.
It was based on the above that there has been a need to bring out all the truth about this fiasco.

It is quite sad that Soltai was forced into a vulnerable situation, where she was unnecessarily bullied around by political pressures backed by an outside force, whose primary aim was to set her hands on the golden egg.

Sad wasn't it!
Well this is an usual tactic employed by some big companies in developing countries to influence political decisions for their own ends - money, power and greed were the masters of the game.

You would have to be inside the fishing elite group to know and appreciate how important is Soltai’s position in the world tuna fisheries and the long-term benefits of retaining her as a nationally owned company.