(CMR) In a surprising press statement issued late today the Office of the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda have stated that there will be no sale of Scotiabank in that country without government approval.
CMR reported earlier today that Republic Financial Holdings Limited (RFHL) had made a move to acquire Scotiabank in several eastern Caribbean countries. However, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has issued an official statement essentially stopping the process for now.
The Bank of Nova Scotia has been stopped from proceeding with any sale of its operations in Antigua and Barbuda until application is made to the Government and approval given.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne also wants assurances that local banks will be given priority to purchase the Scotiabank’s operations in Antigua, and that local persons’ investments and saving will be protected.
Writing today to Suzan Snaggs-Wilson, the General Manager of Scotiabank in Antigua, Prime Minister Browne lamented the fact
“that the authorities of the Bank of Nova Scotia would decide to sell its operations in Antigua and Barbuda without any form of consultation with the regulators or the Finance Minister whose agreement and authority for such a sale are required by law”.
In his letter, the Prime Minister declared:
“I hereby inform the authorities of the Bank of Nova Scotia that their decision to sell the operations in Antigua and Barbuda, without the requisite consultation and agreement of the regulators and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, is unacceptable”.
Having told Scotiabank that should it wish to divest its operations in Antigua and Barbuda, “it would be necessary to seek the government’s approval”.
The Prime Minister went on to express his government’s desire for “such divestment to be offered first to local banks as the priority”
He also disclosed that, “notwithstanding the unexpectedness of Bank of Nova Scoria’s announcement, a consortium of such banks has already expressed an affirmative interest to acquire”.
Prime Minister Browne stated that his government “now expects a formal application by the authorities of the Bank of Nova Scotia for the terms of any divestment, including a reasonable time to identify new local owners, and assurances of the safety of the assets and investments of local clients”.
This is an interesting development in light of local parties now working to see the same happen in the Cayman Islands. One business observer noted: “It's amazing how quickly the Government was to give it's support behind the sale of Cayman's only financial institution without any efforts to encourage local participation in the bidding process. Just like in Antigua and Barbuda this government has the exclusive power to halt the sale process and open it up to locals. However, they continue to prove time and time again that their loyalties are not with the interest of the vast majority of Caymanians but an elite few who wish to line their pockets.”