Montenegro Airlines looking for new owner
Montenegro Airlines will be privatised this year, the country’s Privatisation and Capital Investment Council has announced. Shares in the Montenegrin carrier will be offered through a public tender. “We cannot specify at this point in time the pace in which the privatisation process will take place”, the Council said in a statement. It will be the government’s second attempt at selling its indebted national carrier after it failed to do so in 2010. Despite the government’s approval for a second privatisation effort in 2012, the process never took place.
In 2009, Israel’s national carrier El Al teamed up with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development with the aim of purchasing a stake in Montenegro Airlines. El Al was interested in the Montenegrin carrier only if it gained control over Podgorica and Tivat airports as well, which the government deemed “unacceptable” at the time. In 2011, the Montenegrin government offered a 30% stake in its national airline. Arkia Israeli Airlines, El Al and Etihad Airways all purchased tender documentation but never made a takeover offer. Later that year the government announced that Turkish Airlines was close to making a takeover bid for both the airline and the country’s airports but added it would not sell its national carrier at any cost. In the end the possible takeover by Turkish Airlines did not materialise.
Montenegro Airlines’ debt has reached 68 million euros by the end of 2013. The Montenegrin carrier owes most to the airports in Podgorica and Tivat - up to 12.8 million euros, followed by 12.7 million to the Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Services Agency. The decision to privatise Montenegro Airlines comes at a time when both Croatia Airlines and Adria Airways are seeking a strategic partner as well. Late last year, Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić said, “There is an idea to acquire some airlines in the region after we bring in new planes. All airlines in the region have many problems. They are facing great challenges and will face them in the future”. Commenting on possible regional acquisitions, Air Serbia’s CEO Dane Kondić said, “I think any business is always going to look at opportunities for growth. At the moment we have our own goals, ambitions and plans, which is to bring into service ten of these new aircraft, build a route structure, get some sustainability and then we can look at other sorts of investments that may or may not involve acquisitions around the region”.