In an abrupt move, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has declared that he has told Prime Minister Mia Mottley that Antigua and Barbuda have found $40 million to pump in LIAT and no longer wants to buy Barbados’ shares in the cash-strapped carrier.
The money is to come from a loan from the Venezuela-based ALBA Bank, Browne told listeners to his radio programme over the weekend.
He said: “I have indicated to [Mottley] that the Antigua and Barbuda government has $40 million that could be made available to capitalize LIAT and that there should be a fresh capital call in which we will have the existing shareholders and possibly new shareholders recapitalize LIAT.”
The prime minister said that this will be followed by a restructuring of LIAT to ensure that it becomes a little leaner and to ensure that it can at least make an operating profit going forward.
He said while there will have further discussions, “the idea that we will purchase Barbados’s shares, that is no longer on the table”.
Browne told radio listeners here: “We’ve taken a decision that instead of buying Barbados’ shares that we will invest directly in LIAT.”
According to Browne, this would have to be approved by LIAT’s other shareholders.
He added: “I don’t see why they should stop us from investing directly in LIAT.
“LIAT needs the cash and I think that is a superior decision compared to buying Barbados shares.
“If Barbados does not wish to have its share position diluted, they will have the right to invest a similar amount of even more.
“We are hoping at the next shareholders meeting they will give consideration to our request to allow Antigua and Barbuda to invest 40 million dollars.”
The Antigua prime minister continued: “We have already had a loan commitment from the ALBA Bank, the funds are readily available and we are in a position at this time to invest 40 million dollars in LIAT and we are determined to do so.”
He said LIAT is ” too important to the region to cease trading, it has to continue to trade” .
Browne declared: “If LIAT were to fail, the economic consequences for Antigua and Barbuda would be significant and we have to go the extra mile to ensure that LIAT survives.”