Alternative plans for Croatia Airlines’ future
The Croatian Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, says he is under no illusion that it will be difficult to find a part owner for Croatia Airlines following last year’s failed privatisation tender, adding the government has a “plan B” in store. Mr. Hajdaš Dončić says that another tender will take place, most likely during the summer, but insists this time Croatia will send direct invitations to interested parties to put forward their bids. This is because companies from the far East rarely participate in tender procedures due to their corporate culture, but even so, the minister admits it will be difficult to attract investors.
“Croatia Airlines is important to us but investors see it as a Lufthansa feeder. You can’t persuade someone to invest in a company if they see no interest in it. We have to forget these stories that investors will spend their money in Croatia just because it is beautiful. They won’t. They will invest in Croatia only if they see an opportunity to make a profit”, Mr. Hajdaš Dončić says. Questioned as to how Jat Airways managed to bag Etihad Airways as its part owner, the minister replied, “That privatisation is under investigation. I didn’t see a tender for the sale of Jat. They are not in the EU”.
The Croatian government has a plan B if its second attempt to sell its national carrier fails. The airline will continue its restructuring program which has already seen the carrier cut its fleet by one aircraft, reduce its destination network by 7% and cut down on employees. In the coming year the airline would sell some of its slots and infrastructure and continue the search for a strategic partner. “If we find such a partner, if they give us a letter of intent, we are ready to adopt a special law regarding Croatia Airlines’ privatisation which would see it fast track the process”, the minister concludes. A government delegation will soon visit China where they will look to spur interest from China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines for the purchase of a minority stake in the Croatian national carrier.