The Government Antigua and Barbuda is crossing its fingers and hoping for a reasonable outcome as a team from the twin island will head to Barbados next week to commence negotiations surrounding the sale of LIAT shares.
The local team responsible for spearheading negotiations with the Barbadian government will depart the island on Monday for the first round of talks.
The Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel “Max” Hurst, made the announcement yesterday during the post-Cabinet press briefing.
“We will want to point to that the Antigua and Barbuda team responsible for negotiating with the Barbados team on the sale of certain shares owned by Barbados in the LIAT airline that that team will set off for a meeting in Bridgetown on Monday July 1,” he said.
The news from the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda came days after Barbados’ Attorney General Dale Marshall announced that the negotiations had not begun.
Marshall said he was hopeful he would be able to meet with authorities from Antigua and Barbuda before the start of next month’s 40th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government to be held in St. Lucia.
The local government has agreed to take over the liabilities incurred by Barbados in the LIAT re-fleeting exercise, and to keep LIAT flying rather than participate in any collapsing of the airline.
“A culmination of that negotiating exercise is expected to be that Antigua and Barbuda will come away with a majority of the shares of LIAT but Antigua and Barbuda is not interested only in owning shares. We are interested in ensuring that LIAT continues to fly, that the airline expands rather than is collapsed or is reduced in size and that it takes on a far greater role, not only in regional but in extra-regional travel and that is because it has to explore new markets if it is to grow,” Hurst said.
In exchange for that responsibility, Antigua and Barbuda would acquire partial ownership of the shares which Barbados currently owns.
The government said that Barbados is a 47 percent owner of LIAT’s common shares while Antigua and Barbuda own 34 per cent of the same.
Following the purchase, Antigua will become the major shareholder in the regional carrier.