|Government relaunches Croatia Airlines sale|
Croatia has formally relaunched the sale of its national carrier. The government kicked off its search for a strategic partner for Croatia Airlines and appointed a commission, headed by the Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, to handle the procedure. It is expected for a tender for the submission of bids to take place in early 2015. The government foresees allowing a company from the European Union to acquire a majority stake in the airline but those from outside the bloc will be limited to a 49% share. It expects the new owners to invest funds into Croatia Airlines, modernise its fleet, expand its route network and market share, further develop its profitable maintenance division and support the development of Zagreb Airport.
The government is trying to find a strategic partner for Croatia Airlines for a second time, following a failed attempt late last year. "The time has come to try to find a strategic partner for the second time”, Mr. Hajdaš Dončić said. He added, “I believe that this time we will have potential partners. We have potential for growth and expansion". Croatia Airlines, which recently marked its 25th anniversary, posted an annual profit last year for the first time since 2007. "For the first time in a long time Croatia Airlines’ operations are stable, but for that to be sustained in the long-term, some kind of a merger is needed", Prime Minister Zoran Milanović stressed.
Several airlines have been eyed as potential strategic partners for Croatia Airlines. They include China Southern Airlines and Garuda Indonesia. Garuda’s President and CEO, Emirsyah Satar, said last year, “We are looking to expand our business into Central Europe, in a country which has solid connections to the rest of the European Union. This is why Croatia and Croatia Airlines are a logical choice for us”. However, Garuda failed to submit a bid during the previous tender process. Talks with China Southern Airlines were held behind closed doors, however, it too failed to 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 airlines. In 2014, the Croatian carrier is expected to post a net profit for a second consecutive year and see a modest increase in passenger numbers.