GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Dec 1, CMC – The Guyana government has described as “unacceptable’ a move that would allow the Trinidad-based Republic Bank to “actually own” at least 53 per cent of the banking services in the country.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon said that the move by Republic Bank to acquire the operations of Scotiabank in Guyana and eight other Caribbean countries is still be assessed.

He said while he notes the objections of the government in Antigua and Barbuda, each country has its own peculiarities.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

“While Scotiabank is in all these countries, the situation in Guyana is not the same… What (Finance) Minister (Winston) Jordan has said is that the proposal, which has come out, is for Republic Bank, in buying out the ownership of Scotiabank in Guyana, to actually own 51 percent or 53 percent of the banking services in this country and that is unacceptable,’ Harmon said, adding that the David Granger government would determine what is in Guyana’s best interest.

“I believe the statement made by the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda is a good statement. It deals with his situation. Our Minister of Finance has made a statement also, on the matter here, and I believe we are going to assess the situation and we will make a determination as to how it affects us here,” he said.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said his administration would not be issuing a vesting order to facilitate the sale after the Trinidad-based Republic Financial Holdings Limited (RFHL) said Tuesday it had entered into an agreement to acquire Scotiabank’s banking operations in nine Caribbean countries.

A RFHL statement said that the banks being acquired are located in Guyana, St. Maarten, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

It said that the purchase price is US$123 million, which represents US$25 million consideration for total shareholding of Scotiabank Anguilla Limited; and a premium of US$98 million over net asset value for operations in the remaining eight countries.

In his statement, Finance Minister Jordan said the agreement raises a number of issues for the banking sector in Guyana and for the public which the Finance Ministry, the Bank of Guyana and the Government of Guyana will need to carefully consider.

“The Scotiabank decision is made when Guyana’s economy is on the cusp of financial transformation with the onset of a massive new oil and gas sector raises concerns and is regretted,” he said, noting that among the other concerns is the effect on competition and the potential for Republic Bank to have too much influence on the pricing of banking products and rates.