Talks on purchasing LIAT shares to begin next week

By Antigua News Room,

Talks between the governments of Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda over the sale of the shares in the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, will begin on Monday, a senior government official has said here.

“We will want to point out that the Antigua and Barbuda team responsible for negotiating with the Barbados team on the sale of certain shares owned by Barbados in the LIAT airline will set off for a meeting in Bridgetown on Monday, July, 1,” said Lionel “Max’ Hurst, the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister.

He told reporters following the weekly Cabinet meeting here that a culmination of that negotiating exercise is expected to be that Antigua and Barbuda with a majority of the shares of LIAT, adding “Antigua and Barbuda is not interested only in owing shares.

“We are interested in ensuring that LIAT continues to fly, that the airline expands, rather than collapse or is reduced in size and that it takes on a far greater role, not only in regional, but in extra-regional travel and that is because it has to explore new markets if it is to grow,” Hurst added.

Earlier this week, Bridgetown had indicated it wanted to negotiations to start soon.

Attorney General, Dale Marshall, had said that his government had indicated dates that were convenient to it a few weeks back and was awaiting a response from Antigua and Barbuda.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Mia Mottley formally announced plans to sell its shares in the Antigua-based LIAT, but insisted that it was also committed to regional transportation and would continue to hold minimum shares in the carrier.

Barbados along with Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are the main shareholders of the airline that employs over 600 people and operates 491 flights weekly across 15 destinations.

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.

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).

Earlier this year, LIAT shareholders announced that the airline needed a total of US$5.4 million in emergency funding to keep the airline in the sky.