Antigua and Barbuda makes counter proposal regarding LIAT shares

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The Antigua and Barbuda government says it is not aware that negotiations with Barbados had broken down regarding the sale of the shares of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, owned by Bridgetown.

Media reports in Barbados had suggested that the talks, which began a week ago had broken down after only “a few hours”.

But in a Whatsapp message sent to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that he is “not aware that it has stalled,”  adding “ not to my knowledge”.

Browne said that “a counter offer was made by Antigua” telling CMC he would not be disclosing the counter offer “at this time.

“I am not at liberty to discuss the details,” Browne said.

Barbados negotiating team is led by Attorney General Dale Marshall and includes the Minister for Tourism, Kerrie Symmonds and Director of Finance and Economic Affairs, Ian Carrington.

The Barbados media reports had indicated that Bridgetown was not impressed with St. John’s initial proposals.

Antigua and Barbuda is seeking to become the largest shareholder government of the airline and is in negotiations with Barbados to acquire most of that country’s shareholding in the Antigua-based airline. The other shareholders are Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada.

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).

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.

Last month, Prime Minister Mia Mottley formally announced plans to sell Barbados shares but insisted that it was also committed to regional transportation and would continue to hold minimum shares in the carrier.