This article originally appeared in the Barbados Advocate’s Business Monday on May 20, 2019 — “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” – Proverbs 15:22.
In the last column, we addressed no-nonsense governance policies which must be an integral part of the foundation of LIAT (2019) Limited. Today, we explore the combination of innovative investment finance which will financially secure the airline as we pursue a sustainable solution. This should be based on the triple flame capital framework of (1) startup capital to get the airline off the ground, (2) working capital to advance funds for operational matters to induce profitability, and (3) profit reinvestment to enhance the chances of sustainability of the airline.
Startup capital: This should come from a strong airline industry financial investment partner, share capital from Caribbean governments and from investors at home and in the diaspora through a crowdfunding platform or other broad-based investment mechanism.
There are many financially strong airline investment partners, in particular, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways which could be interested in investing in LIAT (2019) Limited. They each already have a stake in the Caribbean market and may want to expand with a multi-destination Caribbean tourism service, utilizing the kind of aircraft type that makes sense for the LIAT network to be profitable. LIAT needs to look at models around the world that work, and which diversify the regional and international customer experience.
Emirates airline flies to all major geographic areas in the world, except the Caribbean. In September 2013, it was reported that the then Minister of Finance of Antigua and Barbuda, Harold Lovell, returned to his country from Dubai expressing confidence that the groundwork was laid for Antigua and Barbuda to be considered for investment and as a service destination for Emirates.
We have heard nothing further about this, but it is this visionary thinking, at the regional level, that is needed today. We should not prejudge the outcome but prepare a case, negotiate and implement a manageable and mutually beneficial solution.
Caribbean governments should invest in the new airline in proportion to the economic benefits that each country derives.
A crowdfunding platform should be engaged to attract a wider net of investors.
Working capital: This should come from the Caribbean Development Bank in the form of loans to Caribbean governments to help them fulfill their shareholding commitment as well as to help subsidize unprofitable airline routes.
Profits: These should be ploughed back into the company until the company grows to the extent that it can afford to pay dividends to its shareholders.
One of the factors that has plagued LIAT – The Caribbean Airline is the inability to secure investment finance. Let us adopt an innovative strategy and seek a multitude of counsel with a view to securing finance which will contribute to invigorating the airline with life through its marketing strategies, instilling growth through its efficiency and becoming sustainable by engendering an awesome staff culture.
Our strategy must include suppliers of flying stock and systems, address the ability to service unprofitable routes, involve individual government and local private sector investment, draw on a wider pool of investors at home and in the diaspora through crowdfunding, and reinvest our profits to strengthen the airline.
Next column: LIAT (2019) LIMITED: GLOBAL MARKETING TO BRING NEW LIFE TO LIAT REVENUES
Dr. Basil Springer GCM is a Change-Engine Consultant. His email address is [email protected] His columns may be found at www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com and on www.facebook.com/basilgf.