Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Foreign Minister of Venezuela Delcy Rodriguez on Saturday “successfully hammered out” an agreement covering the acquisition of the West Indies Oil Company (WIOC), according to an Antigua and Barbuda government statement.
Rodriguez and her team of ambassadors and technicians flew into Antigua on Friday in fulfilling a promise made to Browne in Costa Rica to collaborate on the acquisition of “one of the most significant business enterprises in Antigua and Barbuda,” the statement said.
“We had a most successful, most productive meeting,” Browne said. “We have in essence and in principal agreed to the terms of our arrangement which include an equity participation by Venezuela, as well as a loan facility, to help us to upgrade the West Indies Oil Company facility.
“Our plan is to turn WIOC into a major petrol distribution hub in the northern Caribbean,” he added. “We have sold them the idea and they have agreed to support us. They will be providing US$24 million in funding.”
The Antigua prime minister also announced that his government has secured an additional US$30 million from a Chinese investor who will partner with Antigua and Barbuda in the acquisition.
“The excess funds will be utilized for maintenance and expansion of WIOC,” Browne said. “We intend to turn WIOC into a major profit centre with the government maintaining fifty-one percent of the shares.
“Some of the shares will be divested to Antiguans and Barbudans eventually,” he said. “I think WIOC is poised to become a major facility in the sub-region. This new enterprise has the ability to create more jobs for our people and make an even more significant contribution towards national development.”
Browne said it is “a great opportunity for the country,” thanking Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro and Rodriguez for their government’s commitment to Antigua and Barbuda.
He said the partnership will further help to strengthen and deepen the relationship.
Rodriguez said that Venezuela is committed to Antigua and Barbuda and the Caribbean, adding that the agreements reached “demonstrate how deep the relationship is with Antigua and Barbuda.”
She said the partnership on WIOC acquisition will be beneficial to both countries.
The Antigua government currently owns 25 percent of the shares in WIOC. The remaining 75 percent of the shares are being offered at US$30 million.
Browne said it is his government’s intention to expand WIOC to become an export facility, “which will grow the country’s foreign exchange, generate jobs and grow the economy.”