July 23, 2004 – Google is hoping to earn close to $3 billion by going public this year. Google, which operates an Internet search engine, could not do that if it was located in the Virgin Islands. The V.I. Corporate Code won't allow it.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards wants to change that. He has submitted legislation to the Senate to amend Title 13 of the Corporate Code to add a new Chapter 16 titled "Publicly Traded Companies."
Richards told the Source on Friday that several companies are interested in the process of going public and that senators had approached him about making the change in the code. However, he supplied no specifics.
In a release distributed on Friday, Richards stated: "Our corporate code as it exists envisions privately held corporations, that is, companies whose stock is held by a few individuals. Because of limitations regarding voting of shares, for example, it is in effect impossible for a Virgin Islands corporation to sell its stock on a stock market."
He said that the legislation he has proposed "will permit an existing V.I. corporation to 'go public' without re-domiciling to the States. It will also permit a corporation domiciled in New York or Delaware, for example, to re-domicile in the Virgin Islands."
Richards told the Source he is "hopeful" that the legislation will spur economic activity in the Virgin Islands. He added, "We will take every opportunity we have to bring economic development and jobs here."
According to the lieutenant governor, "at the moment" he doesn't see his legislation adding responsibilities to his office for overseeing the activity. However, he does see possible revenue gains for the government from publicly traded companies being able to locate in the Virgin Islands.
At present, the release stated, V.I. corporations pay an annual franchise tax to the government. The proposed amendment, it said, "has the potential for increased revenue generation … and built-in efficiencies for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and the entire government."
For a definition of what going public means for a corporation, see Going Public.
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