Honourable Asot Michael speaks at Final Negotiations between the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and PDV Caribe S.A
Office of the Prime Minister
Brief Opening Remarks
Honourable Asot Michael
Minister of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy
Final Negotiations between the
Government of Antigua and Barbuda and
PDV Caribe S.A.
for the Share Purchase, Escrow Agreement and Share Holder Agreement, relating to the
Sale and Purchase of Shares in the
West Indies Oil Company
20th July, 2015
Honourable Charles Fernandez, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
His Excellency Carlos Perez, Ambassador to the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela.
Mr. Williams Martinez, Manager of the Co-ordination of the Joint Company of PDV Caribe.
Mr. Andres Dominique, Manager of Legal Affairs of PDV Caribe.
Mr. Carlos Marval, Manager Director of Operations of Commerce and Supply
Ms. Maria Colmenares, Focal Point to Antigua and Barbuda
Mr. Hector Pernia, Commerce and Supply, PDV Caribe S.A.
Mr. Terrence Burn, Chairman of West Indies Oil Company
Mr. Hilroy Humphries, Board Member of the West Indies Oil Company
Mr. Lebrecht Hesse, Solicitor General, Antigua and Barbuda
Ms. Harris and Ms. Kim, Legal Counsels in the Office of the Attorney General
Good Morning and Welcome.
On behalf of the Prime Minister and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, I am honoured to welcome you to an event that is a significant milestone in the history of our country to what will be the conclusion of a very long process.
More than 8 years ago, the Government of the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda identified the importance of West Indies Oil Company, and President Chavez and Prime Minister Spencer both expressed a firm commitment to make ownership of this valuable petroleum terminal asset a priority.
The Spencer Administration looked to President Chavez and Venezuela for financial help in their efforts to acquire the 75% of the shares held at that time by National Petroleum. Although the Spencer Administration was not able to conclude the acquisition the Government of the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela never gave up on the West Indies Oil Company’s acquisition and when the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party won the elections in 2014, Prime Minister Browne reaffirmed the importance of acquiring WIOC. President Maduro again committed that through PDV Caribe and PDVSA his government was ready to play whatever role it necessary to make WIOC into a regional hub that would benefit both governments.
From its inception in the early 1960’s, WIOC was majority owned by foreign companies.
While the government of Antigua and Barbuda benefitted, as a small shareholder, from dividends paid by the company, it has always been the aspiration of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party to acquire the majority of shares in the company for the benefit of the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
We fulfilled that undertaking.
Now, we intend to retain the majority shares in the company even as we invite other investors and more experienced oil companies to join us in a joint venture to expand the operations of WIOC and enlarge its profits for the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
Already for the last quarter, and even before the Government of Venezuela has come on board as a partner, WIOC has contributed significantly to the earnings of the Treasury of Antigua and Barbuda.
Today, the Gaston Browne government is concluding what the Baldwin Spencer regime could not accomplish for more than 8 years.
We are bringing on board the Government of Venezuela as an investment partner in WIOC.
This is a strategic alliance between our countries.
It will marry Venezuelan petroleum products with an Antigua and Barbuda facility for storage and distribution to a wider Caribbean market.
The operation will save money for the Venezuelan Government and its oil company, PDVSA, as well as earn them money from dividends payable by WIOC.
WIOC will become a key provider of cost effective services for PetroCaribe, reducing logistical costs for shipping to other Petrocaribe Member States and widening market penetration for PDVSA refined products to non-PeteroCarbe members in the region.
In the course of its operations, WIOC will make more money and the dividends payable to the Treasury of Antigua and Barbuda will permit the government to deliver more and better services to the people of our country.
What the Gaston Browne government has done with WIOC is a triumph for the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
Now, this partnership between Venezuela and Antigua and Barbuda will be a win-win alliance.
While the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda will retain 51% of the shares of WIOC, none of the partners will be subservient to the other, and each will reap benefits in accordance with their shareholding.
This is the kind of accord to which all nations should aspire.
It benefits all parties and uplifts them all.
The task of the two sides as we meet today and over the next 48 to 72 hours this week is to finalize the various agreements, so that, subject to final ratification by both governments, they can be signed on behalf of our peoples.
Our task is not difficult.
It is made easy by the fact that President Maduro and Prime Minister Browne set the guidelines for this new partnership at a meeting in Costa Rica in January.
It is made even easier because Foreign Minister Rodriguez and PDV Caribe President Alvarez reaffirmed the guidelines, set by the two Heads of Government, in a Term Sheet signed in this conference room on March 31st 2015.
President Maduro and Prime Minister Browne expect us to reach agreement in the interest of our two peoples, and as an expression of the equality and fairness that results from genuine partnership.
Our job this week is to finalize the Share Purchase Agreement, the Escrow Agreement and the Shareholders Agreement so that, subject to final ratification by both governments, the signatures can be put to these three agreements.
We need to approach these negotiations in the spirit of friendship and respect for the interests of both parties as well as for WIOC and all its shareholders. Around this table we have legal and commercial advisors representing both parties, we can check each agreement, clause, article and appendix. President Maduro and Prime Minister Browne expect us to reach agreement; we will not disappoint them.
In our discussions over the next few hours, we will not disappoint them.
A new era is born this day in inter-regional cooperation, and in the economic benefits that will flow — on an audited, open and verifiable process — to the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let us in a spirit of friendship and solidarity get down to the business that is so happily before us.