Barbados still negotiating on LIAT

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Prime Minister Mia Mottley has admitted that talks with Antigua and Barbuda regarding the sale of Barbados’ LIAT shares did not go as expected.

Negotiators from the two sides met two weeks ago at the Hilton Hotel when talks broke down.

Those negotiations never got off the ground and discussions came to a halt after only a few hours.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne later charged that Barbados was insisting that his Government purchase their 49.4 per cent majority shares in the cash-strapped regional airline carrier for $88 million.

While Mottley revealed that a LIAT board meeting was scheduled to be held Friday, she said negotiations did not go according to plan.

“I think there is a LIAT board meeting tomorrow and the Director of Finance and the PS [permanent secretary] in International Transport have gone off to that. The matter is still subject to negotiations and discussions and I have said and I’m not going to make a habit of negotiating across the oceans…” Mottley said during a post-Cabinet press conference at Government headquarters Thursday afternoon.

“Suffice it to say however, that obviously they are taking a little longer than we anticipated and negotiations either work, in which case they are successful, or they don’t work in which case you revert to the status quo.”

If successful, the sale of Barbados’ shares would make Antigua and Barbuda, which currently has a 34 per cent ownership in LIAT, the majority owner.

However, Browne has declared that Antigua and Barbuda will not settle at the US$44 million proposal made by Barbados.

He said such a deal would be “a steal for Barbados”.

“I understand mathematics, and I understand percentages, and I also understand value for money, so if we were to settle at US$44 million, that would be a steal for Barbados; and 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, because she knows my thinking – discussions cannot start at US$44 million. She knows my position and has since come down,” Browne subsequently said.