ST. JOHN’S: Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Foreign Minister of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Delcy Rodriguez, have reached an agreement covering the acquisition of the West Indies Oil Company (WIOC).
Rodriguez and her team of ambassadors and technicians flew into Antigua last Friday on the instructions of President Nicolas Maduro, fulfilling a promise made to Browne in Costa Rica to collaborate on the acquisition. Both parties reached a mutual agreement last Saturday.
“We had a most productive meeting. 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. We have sold them the idea and they have agreed to support us. They will be providing US$24 million in funding,” said Browne.
He also announced that his government has secured an additional US$30 million from a Chinese investor who will partner with Antigua & Barbuda in the acquisition.
“The excess funds will be utilized for maintenance and expansion of WIOC,” said Browne. “We intend to turn WIOC into a major profit centre with the government maintaining 51 per cent of the shares. Some of the shares will be divested to Antiguans and Barbudans eventually. 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 thanked Maduro and Rodriguez for their government’s commitment to Antigua & Barbuda and outlined that the partnership will benefit the people of Antigua & Barbuda and Venezuela.
The Government of Antigua & Barbuda currently owns 25 per cent of the shares in WIOC. The remaining 75 per cent of the shares are being offered at US$30 million dollars.
Browne has indicated that 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.