|Government mulls Croatia Airlines’ privatisation resumption|
The Croatian Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, says Croatia Airlines’ privatisation process will resume this year following a failed attempt in 2013. The Minister could not specify a firm timeframe on when tender procedures could restart. Mr. Hajdaš Dončić outlined that the Croatian government will conduct a thorough analysis of the aviation market in order to identify potential investors. “We cannot allow for Croatia Airlines to be purchased by a predator, which would in turn destroy the company. Croatia Airlines needs a strategic partner and not a predator”, Mr. Hajdaš Dončić said at a press conference in Zagreb. According to the minister, if required, the government will adopt a special Croatia Airlines privatisation bill in order to sell the company swiftly. A minority 49% stake will be offered to potential bidders.
There have been varying opinions as to how Croatia’s national carrier should be sold. Only recently, the airline’s CEO, Krešimir Kučko, said the government should avoid adopting similar privatisation models to those used by the Czech Republic and Serbia for the sale of their respective national carriers. Mr. Kučko believes that Croatia Airlines should instead be recapitalised after its restructuring process is completed at the end of the year. Minister Hajdaš Dončić emphasised that the ongoing restructuring process has been one of the most successful in the country as the airline recorded a profit for the first time in several years in 2013.
Several airlines have been courted as Croatia Airlines’ potential buyers. They include China Southern Airlines and Garuda Indonesia. While Garuda publicly expressed interest to purchase a minority stake in the Croatian airline last year, it failed to submit an offer during the tender process. Talks with China Southern Airlines were held behind closed doors. However, the airline, which also showed interest in a stake in Adria Airways, did not put in an offer. Recently, Qatar Airways said it was again pursuing acquisitions in foreign carriers. Croatia Airlines could be of potential interest to the Gulf airline.
All of the national carriers from the former Yugoslavia have been put up for sale at one point or another and most have ended up in failure. B&H Airlines was the first to be sold in 2008 to Turkish Airlines. Ultimately, the Turkish carrier bowed out of B&H’s ownership structure several years later. Montenegro Airlines has been put on sale twice while both Adria’s and Croatia Airlines’ single privatisation attempts also failed. After several efforts, Jat Airways was successfully sold last year in direct talks with Etihad. The governments of the remaining four national carriers from the former Yugoslavia have all announced plans to privatise their airlines this year.