Ontario sells its stake in Teranet

After a 10-year partnership, Ontario’s conservative government is selling its 50 per cent interest in Teranet Inc. to Teramira Holdings Inc. for approximately $370 million – an action that Teranet said won’t affect customers.

Teramira became co-owners of Teranet – the company that operates Ontario’s Electronic Land Registration System (ELRS) – with the Ontario government in 1993.

The announcement to sell the province’s share in Teranet was part of the original plan formulated by the province in 1991, according to a statement made by the Ontario government.

A Teranet spokesperson said the timing of the deal worth $370 million was simply “coincidental” and not due to a political game thought up on the eve of a provincial election.

“The original agreement before 1991 actually allowed for the private sector shareholder to buy the government’s shares at a certain point in time, so it really is the natural progression,” said Bonnie Foster, spokesperson for Teranet Inc. in Toronto. “The shareholders have changed but otherwise…it’s business as usual at Teranet.”

Foster said Teranet customers won’t have to worry about fee hikes for statutory services including searching the land registry records or registering documents against titles until the beginning of 2006 due to a price freeze imposed by the government. She added that fee increases for these basic services are always up to the government to change.

Teranet does, however, offer additional services that aren’t covered by the government’s jurisdiction, which the company has free reign over.

“We have other value-added services that we offer and plan to offer and it’s up to us to determine what the market will bear for offering those services,” Foster said.

Customers shouldn’t be worried that the company will now cut corners because Teranet is now completely private sector-owned, said Foster adding that “we’ve always been a private sector company, we just happen to have [had] a shareholder that was the Ontario government.”

According to Foster, Teranet will continue the “hand in glove” relationship it shares with the provincial government through its contracts with the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services – a sector of government that shares the responsibility of managing the electronic land registry system.

Teranet and the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services work together on system changes, service level agreements and system operatation, Foster said adding that the two parties also collaborate on a “very detailed governance process in the whole automation of the records as well.”

According to the province, Ontario’s original capital investment in Teranet was $29 million.

Teranet can be found online at www.teranet.ca. The Ontario government can be found online at www.superbuild.gov.on.ca.