Govermment ups stake in Air Jamaica


KINGSTON, Jamaica -- The Jamaican government increased its minority stake in flag carrier Air Jamaica, which was privatized nine years ago and has since been led by majority shareholder and chairman Gordon "Butch" Stewart, owner of the Sandals and Beaches resort chain.

Aloun N'dombet Assamba, Jamaica's minister of industry and tourism, confirmed that the government now holds 45% of the shares in the airline, up from 25%.

Air Jamaica, which lost $90 million in 2002, reportedly swapped $300 million in debts it owed the government for the stock shares.

Assamba said management of Air Jamaica will remain in private hands.

"It's not a move toward re-nationalization," she said. "It's just that we recognize Air Jamaica is important to us, they're going through difficult times and we're doing what we can to ensure they keep flying."

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