China Southern eying Adria, Ljubljana Airport and Flight Academy
China Southern Airlines is close to purchasing a stake in the Slovenian national carrier Adria Airways and has expressed strong interest in a complete takeover of Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, its CEO Zmago Skobir confirms. China Southern would also purchase the Adria Airways Flight Academy, which is currently on sale, as part of the package. As the Chinese carrier trains up to 3.900 pilots per year, the flight school was what triggered the most interest at China Southern. The 25 year old airline is Asia’s largest and busiest and is also the sixth busiest airline in the world.
Both Adria Airways and Ljubljana Airport form part of fifteen government owned companies which have been marked for privatisation as part of Slovenia’s drive to leave the recession. “Big European airlines have no interest in small markets such as Slovenia but perspective and growing Asian airlines do. Ljubljana Airport and Adria could operate soundly if a deal is reached with the Chinese airline and traffic would grow”, Mr. Skobir says. He adds, “On the contrary another chance will be missed for Slovenia”. However, the CEO of Ljubljana Airport warns that a potential difficulty to the deal could surface in the form of political problems between China and the European Union.
China Southern is a member of the Sky Team alliance, a rival to Adria’s Star Alliance. The airline has this week been linked as a potential buyer of Croatia Airlines which is also set to be privatised early next year. Asian interest in European airlines is not new. Earlier this year, Korean Air bought a 44% stake in ČSA Czech Airlines for 2.6 million euros. Central and Eastern Europe has become attractive for non European airlines looking for regional hubs as a way of gaining a toehold in the European market.