|Croatia Airlines and Adria planned merger in 2012 as both seek partners today|
Croatia Airlines and Slovenia’s Adria Airways, which are now seeking strategic partners as they undertake their second privatisation effort, could have merged in 2012 had the Croatian-led initiative not been blocked by the governments from both countries. Initially, Adria proposed for all of the national carriers from the former Yugoslavia to boost ties and consider merging their operations in early 2012, however, the idea was struck down by Croatia Airlines, which at the time saw no interest in joining such an alliance. However, midway through 2012, the carrier suggested to its Slovenian counterpart to join forces and merge their operations into a single carrier, which could have created a strong airline in the region, reaping the benefits of operating bases in two different markets.
Mirko Tatalović, who was Croatia Airlines’ Manager for Strategic Development and Planning until July 2013, said the Croatian carrier was willing to merge its operations with Adria but also added that politicians were reluctant to carry through with the plan. Mr. Tatalović noted that a merger between Croatia Airlines and Adria would have been natural since both airlines have similar fleets, are members of Star Alliance and are today members of the European Union. He added that the second phase of the airline’s development would have included a merger with Montenegro Airlines noting that Croatia Airlines and Montenegro Airlines have a similar passenger structure due to the existing tourism industry in both countries. During 2011 and 2012, both Adria and Croatia Airlines intensified their cooperation, which included a fleet exchange program where the Croatian carrier would use some of Adria’s aircraft during the busy summer season. The Croatian Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, met with his Slovenian counterpart on several occasion to discuss a possible merger of the two airlines, however the project never mustered enough political backing from either country.
Today, Croatia Airlines and Adria Airways find themselves in a similar situation. Both have been shortlisted for privatisation this year following a failed attempt in the past. Slovenia is seeking to sell up to 96% of its stake in Adria, with the country’s President, Borut Pahur, recently urging Qatar Airways to invest in the carrier. Meanwhile, the Croatian government foresees for a company from the European Union to acquire a majority stake in Croatia Airlines but those from outside the bloc will be limited to a 49% share. Adria Airways and Montenegro Airlines codeshare on each others’ flights between Ljubljana and Podgorica, while the Montenegrin carrier recently said it would launch flights to Zagreb, signalling the start of its cooperation with Croatia Airlines. Montenegro’s CEO, Daliborka Pejović, recently said, “Preparations for this service launch come as a result of serious talks between us and Croatia Airlines, with whom we want to establish successful, long-term and mutually beneficial cooperation”.
During 2014, Croatia Airlines, Adria Airways and Montenegro Airlines carried a joint total of 3.493.926 passengers with a fleet of over twenty aircraft. Among them Croatia Airlines is the busiest, handling 1.8 million passengers last year, followed by Adria at 1.1 million and Montenegro Airlines with 557.000 travellers carried in 2014.