Croatia Airlines to be sold in direct talks with potential investors
Croatia Airlines will most likely be offered to potential Chinese investors through direct talks instead of an international tender, local media reports. The news comes after zero interest was shown for the carrier last year. According to sources from the Ministry for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, the government is planning to adopt legislation which would see it sidestep necessary tender procedures for the sale of Croatia Airlines. It is believed Chinese carriers have shown the most interest in taking a 49% stake in the airline, however, they seldom take part in tenders. Last year, both China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines were said to be interested in purchasing shares in the Croatian carrier but ultimately did not send in their bids.
Following last year’s failed tender, the Croatian government said it would make a fresh attempt this year after the carrier publishes its financial results for 2013, which are believed to be in the black for the first time in years. This month a government delegation is set to travel to China where they will present their new privatisation model for the national carrier in an attempt to garner fresh interest. The sale of Croatia Airlines has become a top priority for the government with the carrier recording sliding passenger numbers and increased competition from its Zagreb base.
Based in Guangzhou, China Southern Airlines, which is believed to have shown the most interest for Croatia Airlines, is Asia’s busiest and largest carrier as well as the sixth biggest airline in the world. It is a member of the Sky Team alliance, a rival to Croatia Airlines’ Star. It has previously been linked to Adria Airways’ privatisation process as well. On the other hand, Hainan Airlines is China’s largest privately owned company and the fourth busiest in the country. It boasts a fleet of 139 aircraft. Indonesia’s Garuda was the only other airline to publicly show interest in Croatia Airlines while both Etihad Airways and Turkish Airlines denied any involvement in the privatisation process.