Sale of stake in Skyport a ‘vote of confidence’ in Bermuda – OBA
The sale of almost half of the company that operates LF Wade International Airport to another foreign firm is a “vote of confidence in Bermuda”, Susan Jackson, the One Bermuda Alliance shadow transport minister, said yesterday.
Ms Jackson attacked the Government’s critical reaction to the deal which, when complete, would see the Canadian company Aecon sell a 49.9 per cent stake in Skyport to Toronto-based Connor, Clark & Lunn Infrastructure, which specialises in investment asset management.
The deal, which is reported to be worth $128.5 million, is expected to be complete by the end of June and has been greeted with disfavour by David Burt, who said he was made aware of the move only minutes before it was announced publicly.
Ms Jackson said: “When a prominent investment company recognises the future potential for Bermuda’s new award-winning international airport, we should welcome their desire to help us build a better Bermuda.
“Connor, Clark & Lunn have done the research. They’re excited by the performance of the airport’s operations and are positive the airport has a bright future.
“The Government should be welcoming them with open arms to build a better future for our island, with more flights to more places, and more tourists to our shores.
“The fact that the Government is critical just shows they did not have anything to do with securing this investment.
“CC&L is a testament to Bermuda as a vote of confidence in our future. Bermuda is and remains a strong jurisdiction for investment.
Ms Jackson said that Bermudians should take pride in the airport.
She said: “Our airport is first-rate. It was built without Bermuda having to borrow money and add further to the national debt. We should be proud of what Bermudians accomplished.
“Bermuda’s Government should be working to build on the success of our new airport. We now have a strong foundation to attract more planes flying to more places.
“The success of our airport enables Bermudians to travel for work and play and help grow tourist arrivals to our Island to boost our tourism industry, which needs all the support it can get.
“It’s great to see a prominent investment company wanting to invest in the future success of our airport. This is the kind of news Bermuda has been waiting for – foreign investment with confidence in our future prosperity.”
The move will not result in operational, management or staff changes at the airport, according to a statement announcing the deal.
Peter Everson, an economist and former head of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, predicted that the sale would lead to little change in the airport experience for travellers.
He told The Royal Gazette: “It is not going to have an impact whatsoever. It doesn’t really matter who the shareholders are.
“It is a long-term investment. Aecon are a large international construction company and it was always part of their business plan that they would sell. The reason that it has taken so long is Covid.
“Some people would not want a controlling stake because that brings with it ownership responsibilities.”
Asked about Mr Burt’s criticism of the deal, Mr Everson said: “I think that reaction is a political one, not one based on economics.“
The Premier said that because of the OBA’s handling of the airport while it was in power, the Government now has to “sit on the sidelines” as assets are sold.
In a statement last night, Mr Burt said: “It is disappointing that Bermuda's elected Government and Bermuda's taxpayers have to sit idly by while foreign companies sell our airport for their own profit.”
Under the arrangement, Aecon Concessions will retain the management contract for the airport.
Aecon will also keep its place as the controlling shareholder of Skyport, owning a 50.1 per cent interest.
Asked for further comment today, a government spokeswoman said that the Government had no control over future staffing levels at the airport.
Asked if the deal could affect tourism flights to the island, the spokeswoman said: “This has nothing to do with tourism. More specifically, it's about Aecon cashing out of an investment that has been secure through the pandemic due to the $50 million of taxpayer funds that have gone to Skyport.”
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