Courtney Campbell, President & CEO – Victoria Mutual Group (left) and ; Devon Barrett, Group Chief Investment Officer & Head of the Strategic Investments Unit – VM Group (right) are all smiles with Mark Young, CEO & Co-founder – Carilend Limited (centre) at the recently held Acquisition Announcement by VM Investment Limited.

Victoria Mutual Investments Limited (VMIL) has announced the acquisition of a 30 per cent stake in Barbados-based FinTech company, Carilend Caribbean Holdings Limited. Carilend is the first of its kind in the region, providing fully integrated end-to-end online lending experience via its state-of-the-art electronic exchange platform. Its first success was the introduction of a peer-to-peer lending service in Barbados. Peer-to-peer lending is a billion-dollar industry in the UK, US and Canada which was successfully introduced to Barbados in 2017. It connects people who have money to lend with people who want to borrow money in a secure online marketplace. “VMIL was attracted to this unique investment opportunity due to the value of the emerging technology which has the potential in other areas of finance with the ability to scale within the Caribbean. This certainly represents a long-term investment for our shareholders,” said CEO of VMIL Rez Burchenson. While the value of this acquisition is less than 10 per cent of VMIL’s capital base, it is an important strategic move aimed at creating greater value for VMIL shareholders and aligns with the previously announced strategic objective of fulfilling the working capital needs of well-run Caribbean businesses. VMIL’s investment affords the business two seats on Carilend’s five-member board of directors. These seats will be held by Devon Barrett, director of VMIL and Chief Investment Officer of the VM Group; and Peter Reid, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Building Society Operations at the VM Group. Carilend was founded in 2015 by two seasoned executives, Mark Linehan and Mark Young. Young, the CEO of the business has a 25-year track record as a regional senior executive with Barclays and CIBC in the Caribbean. This partnership between Victoria Mutual Investments Limited and Carilend is the first step in expanding Carilend’s FinTech capabilities across the region, said Young. “We aim to deliver the same convenience, ease, speed and great rates for borrowers and investors, that we have already delivered in Barbados. We look forward to launching our FinTech platform in Jamaica later this year and further expanding in the Caribbean in 2020,” Young added. The partnership is part of a number of exciting opportunities being explored by VMIL which plays a significant role in helping the VM Group achieve its vision ‘To be the leading Caribbean-based mutual provider of financial services.

Prominent businessman Gassan Azan (right) and hotel mogul Gordon 'Butch' Stewart ahead of Azan's project launch. (Photo: Marlon Reid)

Well-known businessman, Gassan Azan is taking a giant step towards reducing the country’s food import bill with an ambitious $11 billion operation on 400-acres of prime agricultural lands at Lakes Pen in Bernard Lodge, St Catherine. The state-of-the-art agricultural development will cost $11 billion and will be established over two phases. It will directly employ 1,000 people in phase one, and an additional 350 in phase two. The company plans to spend $9 billion in the first phase of the project, and another $2.2 billion in the second phase. The Lakes Pen Agri-Ventures, as the project is called, was officially launched at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Thursday. The hi-tech venture which will boast the latest in agricultural technology and will feature five types of farming. It will consist of an orchard, a greenhouse and a shade house. In terms of the savings that could accrue to Jamaica, Azan pointed out that with the country currently spending between US$850 million and US$1 billion annually on some 40,000 tons of food imports, Lakes Pen Agri-Ventures, could cut that amount significantly. Azan presented his plans for theLakes Pen Agri-Ventures ealrier this week. (Photo: Marlon Reid) “When you look at the numbers, how they stack up, this (venture) will produce 17,000 tons each year and we import 40,000 tons; you can see that this is an approximate 40 per cent reduction in the import bill if we hit our target,” Azan remarked during the project launch. “If we even miss our target by half it is still a substantial reduction in the import bill which gives you that level of, not only food security but also financial security in your reserves. So there is significant benefit to this project from that standpoint without even adding the job scenario into that. That is just raw production numbers,” Azan stated. Among the crops that will be grown are tomatoes, peppers and lettuce which are sold in large volumes in Azan’s Megamart stores. The reliability of imports in part drove him to launch the venture. “Because we have so many deficiencies in the agricultural produce that we have for sale, the idea was to find some kind of food security or supply-line security for the MegaMart stores. “We want to build some kind of linkages back to the farmer straight to the retail shelves. We would end up producing better quality, better supply lines, and a more farmers’ market appeal rather than a supermarket appeal,” he said. The project is well underway as the assembly of the greenhouses is set to start in November. The initiative will also boast what Azan described as a “collection (or) mother-farm-type operation by October.” “We want all stakeholders to come on board and be a part of this process which will change the landscape in agricultural production and distribution in Jamaica,” Azan said. Meanwhile, President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, Lenworth Fulton appeared to agree. “Our people here have tried very hard. Our small farmers have produced an average of 650,000 metric tons of food yearly …but we need to move a notch up,” said Fulton. “I am very happy for the project, the agricultural society is very happy, the farmers will have a market to feed into so I can go out and chirp the happy word: 'Produce, there is a market coming',” Fulton added. And project manager, Victor Cummings, said the farm will revolutionalise the way agriculture is practised in Jamaica. “We are going to transform agriculture, something that has been talked about so many times but hasn't been done,” said Cummings. “We have a vision of how we are going to revolutionise agriculture in Jamaica, how we are going to transform it, and looking at value-added for export utilising the land resources that are there,” said the former Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Seretse Small

Founder and managing director of the AvantMusic School, Seretse Small believes Jamaican musicians are barely scratching the surface of the plethora of opportunities and earning potential the entertainment world has to offer. Small, an accomplished musician with more than 40 years experience under his belt, has been running the music school since September 2014. He has been silently training a number of musicians, vocalists, songwriters, studio recording experts and singers not only to earn a living but to approach the entertainment arena with a sky’s the limit approach. “I believe we are not maximizing all the opportunities the world has to offer. There are a lot of opportunities out there but we are not eating the food,” Small said. Small pointed to the areas ofwriting music for video games, music scores for films and othersthat are not being exploited by Jamaican musicians despite the reggae and dancehall beat featuring prominently in a number of top box office selling movies. He said a Jamaican may be called by a Hollywood producer to lay a dancehall or reggae track to be included in a film but if the producer needs the track to have an orchestra feel added, he would most times opt to go for someone other than a Jamaican composer because very few Jamaicans venture into that field. “We need to take our talent to meet global standards,” he said. This Saturday, Small intends to carry his message of musical globalization to all who wish to share in his vision when he hosts the AvantOpen House at his Paddington Terrace base. At the Open House, aspiring musicians can meet the Avantadministration and experience their personalized approach to learning music. This is the sixth year that the AvantMusic School is hosting the Open House. The school, he says, tries to cater to the needs and aspirations of individual students as opposed to setting a rigid curriculum that is followed to the note every academic music year. “Avantprepares their students for the global stage. The idea is that we can give the Jamaican people a music school that is respectful of who they are and what they desire. We ask them what they want to do and teach the curriculum in respect of that,” he said. “Anything we teach must allow you to move to the global stage. If you go to New York and meet with a jazz or a classical musician you must be able to communicate without losing your integrity,” he added. Small is best known for his exploits in jazz and authentic Jamaican music genres but said he saw the musical light on the road to Damascus when he attended the BerkleeCollege of Music in Boston, Massachusetts some years ago. “That is what shaped and redefined my outlook,” he said. Small was once very active on the live music scene locally and overseas, but has scaled down his live appearances in recent years. He is now concentrating all his efforts on imparting his knowledge to the students who fall under his tutelage. “This is my last effort before retirement,” he said.

A file picture of Triple Crown winner, SUPREME SOUL who won the Mark My Word Trophy.

TrainerGary Subratie notched back-to-back winners on Saturday's 10-race card at Caymanas Park including WOW WOW, who stunned 1-9 favourite, ENGLAND'S ROSE, in the Bearings & Accessories Trophy for two-year-olds. Hunting a third straight win, ENGLAND'S ROSE left the gate fast with Omar Walker and opened up on the lead but shortened badly when challenged by WOW WOW two and a half furlongs out. WOW WOW, running at odds of 9-5 and administered lasix for the first time, tracked and swept past ENGLAND'S ROSE coming off the hometurn, clocking 1:05.1 for a 10-length win under Panamanian Ameth Robles. ENGLAND'S ROSE, a full sister to 2017 Horse of the Year, weakened badly in the stretch run, securing second by only a neck ahead of stablemate TOMOHAWK. Subratie'S 9-5 favourite, RACHEL'S GRACE, turned back SUPER AMIA and stayed on to thwart late-running DEEP BLUE SEA at five furlongs round in the eighth race. Meanwhile, leading trainer Anthony Nunes, on course for his first trainers' title, ticked off an eighth straight win with Triple Crown winner, SUPREME SOUL, who outstayed SUPERLUMINAL, to land the Mark My Word Trophy at nine furlongs and 25 yards. Racing continues at Caymanas Park on Wednesday.

Explosive opening West Indies batsman, Christopher Henry Gayle.

Explosive opening West Indies batsman, Christopher Henry Gayle, the self-proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ is celebrating his 40thbirthday today, Saturday, September 21. The Jamaican, burst onto the international scene in 1999 in his debut One-Day International (ODI) for the West Indies and six months later was drafted into the Test team. In terms of longevity, Gayle has few equals in cricket and he has chalked up a long list of records across all three formats of the game. Below, Loop Sports lists 10 things to know about one of cricket’s most explosive opening batsmen who also has the nicknamesGayle-Force and Gayle Storm: 1.Gayle captained the West Indies Testside from 2007 to 2010. 2.The Kingstonian is the most capped player for the West Indies in international cricket. 3.Gayle is the only player to score a ‘triplet of centuries’- a triple hundred in Tests, double hundred in ODIs and a hundred in T20Is. 4.InJuly 2001, Gayle (175), together with Darren Ganga (89) established the record for opening partnerships at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayowhen they put on 214 together against Zimbabwe. 5.Gayle has scored 42 international centuries, which includes 15 Tests, 25 ODIs and two T20I centuries. He is the first cricketer to score centuries in all formats of the game. 6.In 2002, Gayle became the third West Indian to score over 1,000 runs in a calendar year after Vivian Richards and Brian Lara when he closed the year by scoring three centuries against India. 7.In 2015Gayle established 'The Chris Gayle Academy' with the intent of helping disadvantaged children in bothJamaica and the United Kingdom better themselves and their communities through their involvement in sport. 8.Gayle is the leading run-scorer for West Indies in ODIs as he went past Lara’s record of 10,348 runs in the recent series against India. 9.Gayle has the second most sixes in a calendar year (56 in 2019) and the most sixes in international cricket. 10.Gayle is the only player to score centuries in ICC U19 World Cup, ICC World Twenty20, ICC Cricket World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy, as well as in ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier. The ICC (International Cricket Council)led the tributes for Gayle’s 40thbirthday, pointing out that the “thehard-hitting West Indies batsman holds the record for most sixes in international cricket and also has the most T20 runs”. The ICC also highlighted Gayle’s 462 international matches and his 19,321 runs. There were also numerous birthday wishes from India’s cricketers with whom he has rubbed shoulders for several years in the Indian Premier League, and against whom he has had many battles while representing the West Indies. Mandeep Sigh said:‘Happy birthday Universe Boss.One of the most humble superstars I know. May you keep smiling and entertaining us forever like you always do.” Shikhar Dhawan said:“Happy birthday bro…Was always a pleasure playing cricket with you. Have a nice year ahead Gayle-storm!” Cricket legend, Sachin Tendulkar, weighed in with: “Wishing you a very happy birthday. Have an amazing year ahead.” The Cricket Times also wished Gayle a happy birthday today. He is currently representing the Jamaica Tallawahs in the Caribbean T20 Premier League.