|Government moves to liquidate B&H in bid to find foreign investor|
The Federation government of Bosnia and Herzegovina is preparing to liquidate its carrier B&H Airlines, which has been grounded since July 2 after the country’s regulator suspended its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) on a temporary basis until October. The move came in response to the airline’s dire financial state and mounting debt. The Federation’s Prime Minister, Fadil Novalić, said investors from Germany and the Middle East have shown interest in the fledgling carrier. However, the PM has warned that foreign capital could only be invested if B&H formally declares bankruptcy and, in turn, rids itself of debt and part of its workforce. The government is expected to initiate bankruptcy procedures within the next month.
The Deputy Federal Minister for Transport and Communications, Amadeo Mandić, believes a solution to B&H’s problems will be found, which will offer consumers a new and improved product. “The reality is that B&H Airlines has had serious problems for some time now. The Ministry of Transport and Communications, together with the Federation government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is working hard on finding an appropriate solution for B&H Airlines’ difficulties. There are currently a few possibilities being discussed”, Mr Mandić says, adding, “I personally think we will come to a positive outcome which will be in favour of employees, as well as the passengers and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.
B&H Airlines was set up in 2005 on the foundations of Air Bosna, which also went bankrupt after amassing significant debt. During its 2008 privatisation process, three bids were submitted for B&H. They included Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines and a consortium from Malaysia. Ultimately, Turkish Airlines was awarded the 49% stake, however, it relinquished its shares to the Bosnian state for free in 2012 following disagreements with the government. Mr Mandić concedes that despite being the de facto national carrier of Bosnia and Herzegovina, B&H Airlines had little impact on either Sarajevo Airport or the development of air travel in the country. “Having only two aircraft, B&H Airlines is a small company which can hardly compete with big giants such as Austrian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Germanwings and others, which have been operating to Sarajevo for years and which carry the greatest number of passengers”, the Deputy Federal Minister says.