British telecommunications company Cable & Wireless Communications plc (CWC) has its corporate headquarters in London but manages all operations in the 42 Caribbean and Latin American nations it serves from Coral Gables.
The publicly traded multinational enterprise, whose roots go back to pioneering companies that laid submarine telegraph cables in the mid-19th century to connect Britain with the rest of the world, moved its operating headquarters from London to Coral Gables in 2014. At the same time, it sold subsidiaries in Europe, Asia and the Pacific and focused its business on the Caribbean and Latin America.
Today, CWC provides a full range of telecommunications services, including digital cable TV, broadband, mobile, data storage and domestic and international land-line services, to more than 5.5 million residential, business and government customers. With an extensive network of fiber optic submarine cables, it serves Panama, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, the Cayman Islands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Curacao and other Caribbean countries, as well as parts of Central America and the Andean region of South America.
CWC recently completed the acquisition of Barbados-based Columbus International Inc., another regional telecommunications company, and its all-digital network.
As a result, CWC currently has about 7,500 employees (approximately 500 in South Florida) and added more than 700,000 Columbus customers to its client base.
CWC, whose shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange, reported revenues of nearly $1.8 billion for fiscal 2014 (which ended March 31, 2015). In addition, the newly acquired Columbus had revenues last year of $598 million, which means CWC’s total combined revenues were nearly $2.4 billion. B2B and B2G (business to government) sales provide a major share of the company’s income.
The companies that originally connected Britain to its overseas empire and the United States through submarine telegraph cables eventually became CWC, which has gone through many changes over the decades. In the 20th century it was a large telecommunications company that was nationalized by the British government in 1947 and then privatized under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1981.
The old Cable & Wireless eventually became a sprawling and unwieldy international operator.
“The company that was a global powerhouse had lost its way,” Phil Bentley, who took over as CWC’s CEO in January of 2014, said in a telephone interview. Over the years it was broken up and pieces were sold off.
By the time Bentley assumed the top executive post, CWC had sold or was selling its remaining subsidiaries in Monaco, Macao and the Pacific region in order to concentrate on its businesses in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Bentley is an experienced international executive who previously was managing director of British Gas, the United Kingdom’s largest energy and services business. He also held senior positions at Centrica plc, a British multinational utility; Diageo, the world’s largest spirits company; and BP. He sees excellent growth opportunities in CWC’s relatively small, wide-ranging markets.
“Broadband and cable TV are underpenetrated markets — reaching only about 30 percent in some areas, and only about 40 percent of consumers have smart phones,” said Bentley, who has a master’s degree from Oxford University and an MBA from INSEAD, a leading international business school based in France.
“People in the region watch a lot of TV and want better picture quality and more programming on cable, and it’s affordable to most — about $1 day.”
“In addition, demand for data is growing by 40 percent per annum,” he added. “We’re rolling out new capacity to meet this demand.”
CWC has a long history of doing business in the English-speaking Caribbean, whose nations were formerly British colonies. It has an established presence in the region and knows the many small markets well, giving it an edge over competitors. In addition, it has expanded outside this traditional area to other parts of the greater Caribbean and to Latin America, and is adding new services and capacity for each market.
Thanks to its long presence in the Caribbean, CWC already has “the most extensive network of submarine cables connecting the countries in the region,” said Bentley, who has lived and worked in China, Egypt, France and the U.S.
To expand its services and meet burgeoning demand, it is investing $1.5 billion to add fiber connections, increase broadband speed and replace old land-line networks.
In Panama, for example, the company is adding capacity so that doctors and clinics can use mobile medical scanners, upload the data to Houston for diagnosis and receive the results back in Panama. Medical records and other data can be stored in CWC data centers.
Also, CWC can provide regional governments with backup data systems for disaster recovery, a constant need in a geographical area subject to hurricanes and other devastating storms.
Bentley pointed out that, ironically, the company’s name — Cable & Wireless — originally referred only to undersea cables for telegraph services and to radio signals (wireless). Today, the old name covers a range of modern telecommunications — digital cable TV and wireless devices — and still makes sense.
“Our commitment is to bring first-world telecommunications capabilities to markets that are still underpenetrated,” he said.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cable & Wireless Communications PLC
Business: British-based Cable & Wireless Communications PLC, or CWC, is a leading provider of telecommunications services to the Caribbean and Latin America. The company, which has a long history in the English-speaking Caribbean, is a full-service communications company operating in 42 countries, supplying mobile, broadband, digital cable TV, data storage and domestic and international land-line services to more than 5.5 million customers. Its clients include residential, business and government subscribers.
Headquarters and registered office: London
Headquarters for operations: One Alhambra Plaza, Coral Gables
Founded: Today’s CWC has its roots in Great Britain in the mid-19th Century, when John Pender, a Manchester, England, cotton merchant and other investors began laying submarine telegraph cables to connect England with its neighbors, the rest of the British Empire (including the Caribbean and India) and with the United States. The cable and telegraph companies he established eventually became CWC.
CEO: Phil Bentley (since January 2014)
Employees: about 7,500 internationally; approximately 500 in South Florida.
Ownership: Publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange (Symbol: CWC).
Revenues: Almost $1.8 billion for fiscal 2014 (ended March 31, 2015), up 4 percent from the previous year. CWC earlier this year acquired another regional telecommunications firm, Columbus International Inc., whose revenues last year were reported to be $598 million. Revenues from Columbus raised CWC’s combined group revenues to nearly $2.4 billion.
Source: Cable & Wireless