Puerto Rico-based Seaborne Airlines, which operates in over 10 regional countries, is reportedly looking to set up a new base in Barbados, amid reports that it has also made a firm offer to acquire regional airline LIAT.
Seaborne, which flies mainly 34-seater aircraft, operates in Anguilla, Antigua, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St Croix, St Kitts and Nevis, St Maarten, St Thomas and Tortola.
Well-informed sources have told Barbados TODAY that Seaborne’s offer of US$100 million has already been put to the LIAT board by the company’s CEO Gary Foss.
However, Foss could not be reached today for comment, but when contacted, LIAT’s Chief Executive Officer David Evans suggested the offer was no longer on the table.
He also took issue with the $100 million figure, describing it as “completely erroneous”, but did not deny that the two sides have been talking.
“As a matter of course, airlines will talk to each other on a regular basis about various relationships they might have with each other, and these can range from something as simple as inter-airline agreements or something major like an acquisition,” Evans said.
However, he made it clear that “in the case of Seaborne Airlines, I can confirm that there is no plan for Seaborne to buy out LIAT” at this stage.
“There have been discussions over the course of the year with Seaborne Airlines and those discussions remain confidential but I can tell you that they have been considered by the board of LIAT and, as a consequence, let me repeat that Seaborne will not be buying out LIAT,” he stressed.
Also asked to comment today on the so called buyout proposal, the Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy, said he had just returned home from World Travel Market in London and would therefore have to look into the reports.
He however revealed that Seaborne had expressed an interest in establishing a base of operations here, but he said those discussions were at “a very early stage”.
“We’re open for business. There’s a process involved, but we’re looking to build our aviation industry,” Sealy said when asked whether Barbados would be interested in having Seaborne set up operations here.
The latest development comes against the backdrop of recent talk of having LIAT change its base of operations from St John’s to Bridgetown.
However, Evans assured today that the carrier, which is jointly owned by the Governments of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica, was staying put for now.
He also commented on the performance of the Antigua-based airline, describing 2015 as “a relatively satisfactory year” for LIAT, with a strong performance “right up to the end of August”.
“We have, as an airline, faced the tragedy that befell Dominica as a result of the damage that was caused by Tropical Storm Erika, and I have to say that our thoughts must always first and foremost be with the people of Dominica. That did have a negative impact on our business, but I think we can look forward to 2015 as being a year in which we achieved a number of our objectives.
“We had two primary ones which were to complete the exit of our old fleet of Dash-8 aircraft and that is still on track for the end of the year. And the other major initiative we had was to reduce our staff members in line with the smaller size of our business and that is also on track,” he reported.
Efforts by Barbados TODAY to reach St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who is the chairman of LIAT’s shareholder governments, were unsuccessful.