C&W claims victory over Digicel in battle for Caribbean markets

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The Independent Online

Cable & Wireless Communications yesterday declared victory in a bitter legal battle after a High Court judge dismissed claims that it had illegally delayed the entry of a new competitor into the Caribbean telecoms market.

Mr Justice Morgan ruled against the majority of claims brought by C&W's rival Digicel, bringing to an end an acrimonious three-year legal tussle.

Tony Rice, the chief executive of C&W, called it a "resounding victory," before adding: "This case has been a pointless waste of time and money."

The company will call on the judge to force Digicel to pay its legal costs, which are understood to run upwards of £15m. The judge dismissed all of the charges except in the Turks & Caicos Islands, where he said there had been a breach of contract, but ruled it had caused no delay to Digicel. The company is expecting nominal damages for the latter point, and insiders said they had offered £2.

Digicel brought the case on the eve of C&W's annual general meeting in July 2007, and "said it would claim for several hundreds of millions of pounds. We maintained throughout that Digicel's case was baseless, and the UK High Court has now vindicated this," Mr Rice added.

The case claimed C&W breached telecoms statutes in seven Caribbean territories between 2002 and 2006, at the same time Digicel was trying to enter the market. Digicel also alleged C&W had been involved in a conspiracy to delay entry into the markets.

Digicel said it was "extremely disappointed" by the decision and was weighing its legal options. A spokesman said the decision came as a result of "weak regulatory frameworks" in the Caribbean jurisdictions, and pointed out that the judge had called legislation "poorly drafted".

He also criticised senior executives at TSTT, a Trinidad & Tobago telecoms firm part-owned by C&W, as acting "contrary to honest practices" and deliberately giving misleading evidence at the trial. Digicel is to ask the jurisdiction's telecoms regulator to conduct an inquiry into TSTT. It added that C&W "should be brought to book".