SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Friday said in a press statement he has dispatched a letter to three Ministers seeking answers to questions he has surrounding the announced US $90 million refinancing of PJIA’s 2012 indenture to a conglomerate of companies.
Emmanuel said it is “unbelievable” that such a crucial decision has taken place and the Parliament of St. Maarten was not informed. “That the news came from the arranging bank, and not from the shareholder shows a lack of respect for Parliament and the people of St. Maarten,” MP Emmanuel said.
He pointed to the difference in airport management approach when the previous bond issue was refinanced for US $135 million with a reduction in interest rates from 7.5 percent to 4.5 per cent. “At least then, we not only heard from airport management and got proper explanations, we could see and understand the benefits and the savings to the airport,” The MP said.
“Back then we knew the term was 15 years which was considered good for the Caribbean market considering the regional market was not considered "mature", we know how it was guaranteed and who guaranteed it, we knew that airport management engaged the ratings company Moody’s in the process and so on.
“Today, we have no information. The one thing that is clear to me is that when you look at the institutions involved now, the lenders are companies from Aruba and Curacao who now controls more 54% of the loan facility. The arranging bank in fact, the AIB Bank N.V, is an Aruban institution,” MP Emmanuel said.
The MP also questioned how much cash flow was, according to AIB, “freed up” to assist in the reconstruction of PJIA. “PJIA is apparently a bottomless money pit that keeps getting significant amounts of financial injections, while we can barely see any significant progress five years after hurricane Irma. PJIA got US $50 million from the Trust Fund, 50 million from the EIB (European Investment Bank) another US $20 million recently from the Trust/NRPB, and how much now?” the MP questioned.
The MP addressed his letter to the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of TEATT. Some of the questions he posed included:
- What is the real reason for the refinancing?
- What is the exact amount of the loan?
- What is the actual interest rate?
- What are the savings referred to by AIB? Exactly how much is being saved?
- How much money is PJIA getting to assist with its reconstruction?
- What is the term of the loan in years?
- Was there collateral demanded/used for this loan facility? If so, what was used as collateral?
- Did the government extend the airport’s concession? If so, for how many years?
- Who guaranteed this loan and how?
- Is the EIB now subordinate to this new loan?
- How will this be repaid? Were airport fees increased?
- Was the Council of Ministers kept abreast during this loan process?
- How does this loan affect the rating of the airport (Moody’s)
- Who is now the majority holder of the bonds?
- How much was AIB paid as arranger? Why was APS not used?
- Which borrower did Simmons & Simmons represent?