The Antigua and Barbuda government is defending its position regarding the sale of Soctiabank operations there even as it announced that all the Canadian banks operating here have expressed a desire to leave the country.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, speaking on his private radio station, told listeners that “the Canadian banks have indicated their desire to leave, all of them, and I would expect that as they leave, that they will give local entities the first right or refusal and again we make no apologies about that”.
Browne did not name the Canadian banks desirous of leaving here, but apart from Scotiabank the other Canadian entities operating here are the Royal bank of Canada and the Canadsian Imperial bank of Commerce.
Last November, the Trinidad-based Republic Financial Holdings Limited (RFHL) announced that it was seeking to acquire Scotiabank operations in several Caribbean countries.
Antigua and Barbuda and Guyana had initially expressed reservations about the proposed acquisition, with St. John’s indicating that it would not be issuing a vesting order to facilitate the move.
The RFHL statement said that the banks being acquired are located in Guyana, St. Maarten, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
It said that the purchase price is US$123 million, which represents US$25 million consideration for total shareholding of Scotiabank Anguilla Limited; and a premium of US$98 million over net asset value for operations in the remaining eight countries.
Antigua and Barbuda has said that it wants assurances that local banks will be given priority to purchase Scotiabank’s operations on the island and that local persons’ investments and savings will be protected.
Browne told radio listeners that his administration’s policy regarding the sale of the bank is “not anti-capitalist, it is not anti-investment (but) it is just about protecting and growing the domestic economy.
“Our domestic banks are so small that generally speaking they are not quite bankable for corresponding banking services,” said Browne, a former senior banking executive, adding that the departure of the Canadian banks presents an opportunity for local banks to expand.
“The only how are banks are going to get to the stage where they are large enough is through inorganic growth, through acquisitions. So whereas the Canadian banks have signalled their intention to leave it is quite an opportunity for the local banks to build capacity and grow rapidly so that they can become more resilient,” Browne said, adding that the growth would ensure the maintenance of existing corresponding banking relations.