The Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda recently held discussions on LIAT and the Antigua and Barbuda bid to acquire the majority shares in the regional air carrier. According to the recent cabinet notes, the Prime Minister reported on his bilateral meeting with his Barbados counterpart while at the United Nations in New York.
The notes indicated that a shareholders’ meeting is scheduled for this month, October 2019, at which time the Antiguan bid will take center stage, and the pivotal decision made.
Rcently Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Antigua and Barbuda is prepared to acquire further shares in the cash-strapped regional airline but was unwilling to pay an estimated US$44 million being asked by Barbados for the sale of its shares in the airline.
The two countries have been holding discussions on the acquisition of the shares and last week, Browne told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the talks were still ongoing despite media reports in Bridgetown that they had broken down.
Speaking on a radio programme here, Prime Minister Browne told radio listeners if St. John’s had to settle at the asking price of US$44 million “that would be a steal for Barbados.
“We are not in the process of giving away money. We are in the process of creating value and to get fair value for the people of Antigua and Barbuda, so as far as I am concerned, and I have said this to the Prime Minister of Barbados (Mia Mottley), so she knows my thinking, telling her that discussions cannot start at US$44 million.
“So she knows the position and she has since come down,” Browne said, adding that he was looking to an amicable settlement of the negotiations and in the event that does occur, his administration is prepared to invest directly in the airline.
“And my colleagues will tell you that it was always my first option. The issue though about buying Barbados’ shares came about as a result of an impasse in which Barbados said it could not go any further, sell the planes, we said, look we cannot be a successful shrinking LIAT.
“We do not accept that and that’s the case, lets negotiate and we will buy all or some of the shares and they said they will sell up to 90 per cent of the shares. If we are unable to come to a satisfactory compromise then we will just put in our money and buy those shares and we can still get a majority position which is not necessarily what we are fighting for,” he said.
Antigua and Barbuda currently holds 34 per cent of the shares and if it succeeds in convincing Bridgetown to part with its LIAT shares, would have 81 per cent of the airline that employs over 600 people and operates 491 flights weekly across 15 destinations.
St. John’s said it would seek to acquire the LIAT shares owned by Barbados, through a take-over of the liability of Barbados to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).