For the second time in recent weeks, the government has sought to provide more details about the intended purchase of the Deluxe Cinemas, in the wake of burning questions and strong opposition.
During the weekly Cabinet press briefing, on Thursday, Information Minister Melford Nicholas revealed the price of the deal but was not forthright about how soon the purchase will happen and how much will be spent to convert the building.
Nicholas said $8 million would be spent to purchase the building being sold by the Antigua Commercial Bank (ACB).
“The purchase price of $8 million that is in negotiation as opposed to the assessed value of the property at $11 million, puts the government already in a position where it will acquire a property below market value and to repurpose it for something, that is a valued reason,” the information minister said.
According to the Cabinet of Antigua & Barbuda, the property yields almost $50,000 monthly in rental revenue, or $600,000 annually and the $8 million purchase price, which the government will pay for the building, will be amortised in less than 15 years.
The cinema, which is located in the heart of the city, is part owned by the family of Foreign Affairs Minister Charles “Max’ Fernandez.
Since the announcement weeks ago, speculation has been rife that government is attempting to bail out a Cabinet colleague.
The plan is to convert the financially troubled cinemas into a Performing Arts Centre.
“What we have is a facility that in itself has tenants; it will generate rent, the facility as we require it, is not going to be the funds flowing from the government to the Fernandez family. I will go as far as to say Minister Fernandez family is a minority shareholder in the business,” Nicholas said.
More in today’s Daily Observer.