No expression of interest from Branson, LIAT chairman says

As uncertainty continues over the future of the Caribbean regional airline LIAT, so do the crossed lines of communication coming from the nations that make up its main shareholders.

Following reports that Virgin Atlantic founder and British Virgin Islands resident Richard Branson had expressed an interest in investing in the cash-strapped carrier, Ralph Gonsalves, the Vincentian Prime Minister and chairman of the LIAT Shareholders Government Group, has told the St Vincent radio station WE FM that he has received no such expression of interest.

Lionel Hurst, chief of staff in the Antigua and Barbuda government, had told the St Kitts radio station WINNFM on May 2 that Branson had proposed injecting several million dollars to “wet lease several aircraft” and to “very likely” fly from Fort Lauderdale Int’l to various Caribbean destinations and “enlarge LIAT” rather than collapse it or make it a smaller entity.

However, Gonsalves told WE FM on May 7 that he knew nothing about Branson having any interest in LIAT.

“As the chairman of the shareholders, I have not been made aware of that, nobody has contacted me about that. Whether Branson said so in an off-hand way or in a serious manner, I don’t know. I don’t usually jump like that when rich people make a suggestion until I see something really meaningful,” he said.

LIAT has in the past explored the idea of expanding into other markets, Gonsalves added, but the airline has shelved these plans because of its current difficulties.

“You may well have to expand to make some more money. And if you are expanding to make more money, you might need to find a partner in the jet service area, but I’m not giving legs to what you and I have read about what the minister from Antigua said with relation to Sir Richard Branson, because I don’t know anything official.”

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