(Source – Antigua Observer) – The Government of Antigua and Barbuda said that it intends to keep discussions going with Barbados with a view over the sale of the latter’s shares in the regional airline, LIAT, despite reports from other regional media houses that negotiations between both countries has fallen through.
According to Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister Information, Melford Nicholas, a shareholders meeting will be held next month where the Antiguan and Barbudan government is expected to make another move to continue those talks.
“Clearly, there was an attempt by the Government of Barbados to liquidate some of its equity in LIAT and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has expressed some interest in stepping into that breach. Clearly, what they asked for, for their portions of the shares, was something that Antigua deemed an inappropriate value and clearly those negotiations have stalled, but there are other ways by which the equation, in terms of equity within LIAT, can be pursued and I believe at the shareholders meeting that is pending next month that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda will make a next pitch and we will see what transpires from there,” he said.
In fact, during the post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday, Nicholas reiterated that despite the Barbadians’ apparent intentions to detach themselves from the regional airline, the government is interested in keeping the company afloat.
“The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is still interested in seeing the continuous restructuring of LIAT and one of the areas that LIAT struggles with is with injection of capital and we believe that in these circumstances LIAT needs further capitalisation. The government is willing, given the inability of Barbados as one of the major shareholders, to continue to meet its obligations to step into the breach.”
Despite many suggestions for LIAT to subsidise to sustain operations, Nicholas is of the opinion that more growth is needed for the company to thrive.
“LIAT is critical to not only the economy of Antigua and Barbuda but critical to commerce and other inter-regional travel for our people. We have reiterated in the past, more than once in the past that we do not see a reduction [or] a shrink in LIAT but we see the survival in LIAT by it expanding its wings and becoming more ambitious in its approach and certainly that is what is on the cards,” the Information Minister said.