|Government outlines Croatia Airlines privatisation plans|
The Croatian government is preparing to sell a minority stake in its national carrier this autumn, with the privatisation process likely to begin in November. The Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, is convinced Croatia Airlines' sale will be successful this time around, following a failed attempt last year. “I’m confident we will get a couple of good offers. We can offer a majority stake if a buyer is from the European Union. We have received some queries”, Mr. Hajdaš Dončić explains. The minister adds that companies will have a 45-day timeframe in which to submit non-binding bids before the government selects candidates for the next round of negotiations.
The first attempt to sell Croatia Airline began over a year ago and failed after nobody responded to the tender call. Mr. Hajdaš Dončić recently outlined the government’s plan to conduct a thorough analysis of the aviation market in order to identify potential investors, adding that Croatia Airlines must consolidate its operations and expand in the region. Since the failed sales attempt late last year, Croatia Airlines has managed to post an annual profit, its first in years. However, its passenger numbers have been steadily declining throughout the year and its market share has been decreasing as it faces tougher competition, especially at its base in Zagreb.
Several airlines have been courted as Croatia Airlines’ potential investors. 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, it did not put in an offer. Over the year, both Turkish Airlines and Etihad Airways have ruled out any interest in acquiring Croatia Airlines. On the other hand, Qatar Airways says it is again pursuing acquisitions in foreign carriers. CEO Akbar Al Baker notes that he is “actively discussing opportunities” with other airlines. “When we see that there are strong synergies between the two carriers we are open to investment”, Mr. Al Baker says. “We want airlines that we acquire to be complimentary to us, we don’t want to get involved in fixing other people’s problems”. Croatia Airlines could be of potential interest to the Gulf carrier, which maintains daily flights to Zagreb.