ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Friday December 14, 2018 – Prime Minister Gaston Browne has invited officials of Scotiabank to a January 7, 2019 meeting to discuss the purchase of the bank’s branch holdings in Antigua and Barbuda.
The invitation is contained in a letter sent yesterday by Browne to Scotiabank’s branch manager in Antigua, Suzan Snaggs-Wilson. It was dispatched 17 days after the bank announced that it plans to sell its banking operations in Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Maarten, and St Vincent and the Grenadines – to Trinidadian banking conglomerate Republic Financial Holdings Limited (RFHL), for US$123 million.
Prime Minister Browne has taken the position that his government will not give the vesting order to facilitate the bank’s divestment unless a consortium of local banks is given the first right of refusal to acquire the bank’s operations.
And in his letter, he said that the proposed meeting would be between high officials of the Bank of Nova Scotia and representatives of a “consortium comprising the Government, local banks and other qualified and competent local institutions” desirous of purchasing Scotiabank’s branch holdings in Antigua.
“The purpose of the meeting would be to discuss the parameters of the sale which would not necessarily exclude participation by any regional entity approved by the Government and the regulatory authorities,” Browne wrote.
Explaining the Government’s position to the Bank of Nova Scotia, he added: “The Government of Antigua and Barbuda makes it clear that its primary concern is to build resilience in the local banking sector and reduce its vulnerability to de-risking strategies employed by foreign owned entities that weaken our national capacity to participate in the global financial and trading system effectively.
“It is important that the ownership of the vital banking sector be re-balanced to improve the strength and capacity of local shareholding. This in no way affects foreign-owned banks that now operate in Antigua and Barbuda.”
The Prime Minister also made clear that the bank’s decision to sell its branch holdings provides the opportunity for strengthening the local banking sector and enhancing the nation’s utilization of its own wealth, including keeping profits at home for re-investment in economic growth and social development.
Browne’s letter was copied to the Chairman of the Board of RFHL.
There has been no word yet on whether Scotiabank will accept the offer to meet.