Government promises brisk Jat privatisationThe Serbian government is planning to privatise Jat Airways yet again, this time within the next two months before its four year term runs out. Parliamentary elections are to take place on May 6. Local media report that the government has agreed to sell a 50% stake in the airline to Serbia’s three most successful businessmen who are also the country’s richest. Local media report an equal share will be divided between Miroslav Mišković (owner of the Delta Group), Miodrag Kostić (owner of the MK Group) and Miroslav Bogićević (owner of Farmakom).
According to sources inside the government, the trio is prepared to invest 25 million euros into the airline while the government, which would continue to own a 50% stake in the carrier, would invest a further 25 million euros. Seven aircraft from Jat’s current fleet would be used, while a further three would be bought or leased. The new owners would also be prepared to put an end to Jat’s Airbus woes. Through this new arrangement the government plans for Jat to become profitable by 2015. It has also said a new professional management would take over. However, if the privatisation plan materialises many can expect to lose their jobs. It is projected that as many as 1.000 people would have to leave the airline, with the government preparing redundancy packages.
So far, there have been two attempts to privatise Jat, both ending in failure. The first attempt was made in the summer of 2008 just as the global economic crisis was gathering pace, while the aviation industry was already in trouble. Last year, the government tried to sell Jat again, this time trying to find a partner to set up a successor national carrier. Only Baltic Aviation Systems, which runs airBaltic, purchased the tender documents but shortly announced it had no interest in pursuing the purchase. Will it be third time lucky for Jat in the year it celebrates its 85th birthday?