Cabinet gets 'options' over Nassau Flight


TOURISM and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.


Tribune Business Editor


The Minnis administration has been sent "recommendations" on how to proceed with the proposed privatisation of Nassau Flight Services (NFS), a Cabinet minister has confirmed.

Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, declined to divulge which of the two final groups had been selected as the preferred bidder, or if the government-appointed evaluation committee had deemed neither offer satisfactory and called for the process to be annulled.

"It's on its way to Cabinet for their consideration," Mr D'Aguilar said of the committee's work. "The evaluation committee has reviewed the proposals that were submitted. They have a number of recommendations, and have sent them up to Cabinet for consideration.

"They gave the Cabinet some options. I wouldn't confirm or deny whether they've selected one bid or the other. These things have to be carefully considered, evaluated, and when Cabinet feels comfortable they'll make their decision."

Tribune Business previously reported that Colin Ingraham and Robert Pantry, the former Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Scotiabank banker, are the principals involved in one of the two remaining bidders. They are thought to be supported by RoyalFidelity Merchant Bank & Trust, which will raise the necessary financing.

Besides Algernon Cargill, director of aviation, the evaluation committee also included former Central Bank governor, Wendy Craigg, who now chairs the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) Board; Walter Wells; accountant Philip Stubbs; and Ryan Sands, an attorney with the Attorney General's Office.

Nassau Flight Services' annual $8m revenues place it well within the range of the Bahamian investor groups targeted by the government. The Minnis administration has long made clear that it views the company as "low hanging fruit" when it comes to privatisation, outsourcing and getting the government "out of business".

It also sees the privatisation as part of its drive to create more Bahamian entrepreneurs, diversify the economy and spread the wealth, hence its insistence that foreign bidders need not apply given that Nassau Flight Services' size makes it a prime candidate to remain in local hands.

The ground handling services provider currently requires annual taxpayer subsidies of $2m, while the privatisation tender document laid out relatively modest growth prospects. Revenues from its main ground handling business projected to grow at 2 percent per annum over the next decade.

And a downsizing of Nassau Flight Services' 244-strong workforce, featuring 166 full-time workers and 78 temporary staff, is almost inevitable given the need to better align costs with income. This, though, will not be easy given the presence of trade unions via the Airline, Airport and Allied Workers Union and an existing industrial agreement.

Nassau Flight Services' client base comprises British Airways, Air Canada, West Jet, Sunwing Airlines, InterCaribbean Airlines, Caribbean Airlines, COPA Airlines and Cubana Airlines at LPIA's international terminal, and Jet Blue, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Silver Airlines at the US terminal.

It also serves a host of charter and other operators, including Air France and Condor, while in Exuma it serves Air Canada and takes care of American Airlines and Air Cariabes in San Salvador.


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