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AT&T, Starwood, Marriott Work on Cuba Deals Ahead of Obama Trip
MAR 14 2016, 6:22 AM ET

At least three major U.S. companies, AT&T, Starwood, and Marriott, are
seeking to complete deals in Cuba as President Barack Obama prepares to
visit Havana. The flurry of deal-making could help Obama use his
historic March 20-22 trip to showcase what he sees as the benefits of
Washington’s diplomatic opening with the former Cold War foe after
decades of hostility. It will be the first visit to Cuba by a U.S.
president in nearly 90 years.

Cars drive on a street in Havana. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa REUTERS
But even as Obama prepares to unveil further measures next week to chip
away at decades-old restrictions on trade and to Cuba, the
longstanding U.S. economic strictly limits efforts by American
companies to do business on the communist-ruled island.

AT&T is trying to complete a mobile communications agreement with Cuba’s
state telecoms monopoly , while Starwood is also weighing an
announcement, according to a source who was briefed by administration
and company officials.

AT&T declined comment.

A source familiar with AT&T’s negotiations said: “While there are
discussions with Etecsa, there is no agreement in place.”

Starwood said it “has applied for authorization from the U.S. Treasury
Department to operate hotels in Cuba.”

“We see many opportunities for the expansion of our brands into Cuba at
this inflection point, and look forward to building long-term
relationships and welcoming travelers into our hotels in this dynamic

Marriott spokesman Thomas Marder said: “We are optimistic that we are
going to get a green light soon from the U.S. government to have hotels
under the Marriott flag in Cuba.”

The three companies were first identified by the Wall Street Journal.

Other deals may also be in the works timed for Obama’s visit. Major
League Baseball is considering an announcement, according to the person
familiar with the discussions. No details were immediately available.

MLB has had discussions with the U.S. and Cuban governments looking for
ways to allow big-league teams to sign Cuban players without them having
to defect.

White House officials were not immediately available for comment.

While many U.S. companies are interested in the Cuban market, most have
been slow to take advantage of the U.S. opening to Havana. They remain
hemmed in by the more than half-century old embargo and wary of the
Cuban government’s failure to enact significant economic reforms.

U.S. airlines have rushed to apply for routes to the island but the
embargo still bans general as well as many other kinds of
business dealings.

Obama has called for lifting the embargo but that can only be done by
Congress, and Republicans who control both chambers have made clear they
will not act.

Obama’s Republican critics have accused him of giving up too much for
too little from the Cuban government and of playing down
concerns to pursue rapprochement with Cuba, which began in December 2014
and is now seen as a major piece of his foreign policy legacy.

White House officials have countered that the outreach to Cuba is aimed
at helping ordinary Cubans while opening up commercial opportunities for

Source: AT&T, Starwood, Marriott Work on Cuba Deals Ahead of Obama Trip
– NBC News –

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