FEATURING a strong comeback, Fiji Pine Limited yesterday handed over a healthy $2.4million cheque as a loan repayment to the government.
While it still records $55.5m in debt in its books, the company says it is still in a position to service those debts adequately.
Company executive chairman Faiz Khan said the repayment was made three months after the government came to its rescue when it failed to repay a debt to the European Investment Bank that was in its books since 1985.
"We have endured an 18 months slump in the woodchip market, the whole of 2012 and half of 2013 was bad. That was perhaps the reason we could not service this old debt," Mr Khan said.
"Having said that, we have been servicing without default more than $9m of debt a year."
He said in the past two and a half years, they had serviced about $25m of debt, out of which $17.5m had gone into reduction of the principal debt.
He added that the $55.5m debt in its books was taken from Westpac Bank, Fiji Development Bank, Fijian Holdings, and a government debt of $12m which was taken in the 1990s, the repayment of which will start in 2015.
"And with this debt, with the restructure, and the way it is with all the businesses operating, we are in a position to service these debts adequately.
"There are a number of debts in our books. The terms are all different and some would be a 10-year loan, some would be a five-year loan. Some the repayments have not kicked in as yet.
"I must say the progress made in these departments have been somewhat on a staggered basis because of the burden that we always had to endure in the past.
"But with the payment of this debt today, I believe that Fiji Pine is in a position now to quite firmly look into its future rather than looking into the past and always being burdened and constrained."
Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama commended Fiji Pine for the prompt repayment after receiving the cheque.
"I can't recall another occasion when a State-owned enterprise has paid off an outstanding amount to government so quickly," he said.
"It's a great credit to the board, management and workers and a clear sign of the success of our reform program at Fiji Pine."