GRENADA HALTS UTILITY'S SALE TO FLORIDA'S WRB ENTERPRISE

GRENADA HALTS UTILITY'S SALE TO FLORIDA'S WRB ENTERPRISE

The government of Grenada has halted the privatization of the island's power company to a Florida firm.

The government and the company, WRB Enterprise of Miami, are involved in a legal battle over the privatization.The sale of 50 percent of the state-owned Grenada Electricity Co. was agreed last year between WRB Enterprise and the government of the eastern Caribbean island of 100,000 people.

The Florida company agreed to pay $5.6 million dollars, and the government said 40 percent of company would be sold to local institutional and individual investors.

The agreement, however, was opposed by the parliamentary opposition New National Party and the labor movement in the island.

In an election in June, the National Democratic Congress administration was defeated by the New National Party, which now forms the government.

Lawyers for WRB Enterprise have filed a suit against the government in the local courts after the administration failed to honor the agreement for the sale of the power company.

Although agreement was signed by the Florida company and the previous government, the legislation authorizing the deal was not implemented.

The agreement for the sale of a half of the power company to WRB Enterprise had followed 18 months of negotiations, after which the administration said that Grenadians would soon have continuous power, rather than the spate of blackouts of the past years.

"The government is assured, based on WRB plans, that it would be investing considerably in rehabilitation in the short term," said George Brizan, Grenada's former prime minister, when he signed the sale agreement.

WRB Enterprise intends to provide a "reliable" supply of power "within a matter months," said Robert Blanchard, chairman of the Florida company, when the deal was signed.

The legal battle between the government and WRB Enterprises could take ''several months," said local lawyers.

"This is a very messy issue, with WRB saying that it has a valid agreement signed by a government, and the government saying that the legislation approving the sale was not implemented," said one lawyer.