The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is taking credit for an 11th hour decision by Government to halt the planned sale of the Hilton Barbados Resort.
Earlier today, it was revealed that a meeting scheduled for Monday, May 21 to approve the controversial sale has been called off, effectively leaving the future of the Needham’s Point property in the hands of the new administration to be elected here next week.
Dr Justin Robinson, chairman of the National Insurance Board (NIB) – a minority shareholder in the property- told Barbados TODAY this afternoon the NIB had been informed that Monday’s meeting had been cancelled.
This means the proposed sale cannot proceed in the absence of a resolution by the shareholders, he said.
“A sale would require a shareholders’ resolution to sell the property . . . so a sale could not take place in lieu of that shareholders’ resolution. So until such a time there is a shareholders’ meeting that passes a resolution for the sale of the property, then there can be no sale of the property,” Robinson explained, adding that a new date had not been communicated to the NIB.
“The Company’s Act requires a 21-day notice period for any such meeting,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what led to the cancellation of the meeting, but one media report yesterday that plans were under way by the NIB to stop the shareholders’ meeting in order to avoid a showdown between the insurance scheme and Needham’s Point Holdings Ltd (NPHL), the hotel’s owners.
However, addressing supporters at the corner of Wellington Street, The City, on Tuesday night, Mottley contended that after revealing the details of the pending meeting at a rally of Oistins last Sunday, the Freundel Stuart administration was forced to back down because a large scale protest was imminent.
“When I told you the people to stand up, I got a response from lawyers, truck drivers, from people from all walks of life. At least they had the good sense to cancel meeting before they [Government] had a showdown with a crowd of 10,000 people,” Mottley said, adding that “the power of the people is greater than the people in power”.
Mottley also gave credit to Robinson, whom she said was candid enough to express concern about the manner in which the meeting was being held.
“I have to give credit to Chairman of the National Assistance Board for coming out in the media and telling the country about his concerns with this rush to push this through,” Mottley said.
On Sunday, the BLP leader had presented documents that showed that the hotel was valued at $252,824,956 two years earlier, before major renovations of over $11 million, and argued that should the sale proceed there would have been a loss of nearly $93 million.
It was for this reason that she told supporters the sale had to be stopped “at all cost”, as she called on them to turn out in their thousands at Needham’s Point on Monday, if needed, to ensure that the meeting did not take place.
The BLP leader had also questioned the rush to sell the property, stating that such an important transaction ought not take place mere days before a general election.
The BLP first pointed to the disparity between the value of the property and the proposed sale price when it posted on its website last December that Government would actually only earn about $33 million from the sale.
Mottley elaborated with the support of the documents, which showed that from the $160 million, outstanding long-term loans of $115 million and short-term loans of about $12 million had to be paid, leaving a net total of $32,981,528.
The NIB was also said to have been unhappy with the proposed deal, with Mottley presenting a document which she said was a board paper from last November declaring that to sell the resort at a “fire sale” price was wrong as it was a performing asset.
She also indicated that the NIB was worried that if the hotel were sold at this price it could result in the NIB not being paid its equity investment.
The Caribbean Development Bank is the second minority shareholder in NPHL, while Government holds 90 per cent of the shares.