|Air Serbia’s future investments may involve regional acquisitions|
The Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, has said the country's national carrier is eyeing investment opportunities in the region. "I believe that in the coming period Air Serbia will acquire an airline from the Balkans. This will be the next major piece of news", Mr Vućič said. However, the Prime Minister added, "Were there no political obstacles, Air Serbia would have already acquired two or three companies in the region". Plans to purchase a nearby carrier have been on the agenda since Etihad Airways' part-takeover of Air Serbia two years ago. In October 2013, Mr Vučić noted, "There is an idea to acquire some airlines in the region after we bring in new planes. All airlines in the region have many problems. They are facing great challenges and will face them in the future”.
The CEO of Air Serbia, Dane Kondić, has also touched on the issue in the past. In 2013, prior to Air Serbia leasing ten Airbus aircraft and developing its route network, Mr Kondić said, "I think any business is always going to look at opportunities for growth. At the moment we have our own goals, ambitions and plans, which is to bring into service ten of these new aircraft, build a route structure, get some sustainability and then we can look at other sorts of investments that may involve acquisitions around the region". Asked whether Etihad Airways will be making more acquisitions itself, President and CEO, James Hogan, said, “I think we have our plate full at the moment".
Among the strongest possible contenders for acquisition is Montenegro Airlines, which earlier this month signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Strategic Commercial Cooperation with Etihad. The deal gives Montenegro Airlines access to Etihad’s global network of destinations and will allow the airline to use the Emirati carrier’s resources in order to improve fleet utilisation. Furthermore, Montenegro will forge closer ties with Etihad's partner airlines, while the Abu Dhabi-based carrier will also assist in overhauling Montenegro Airlines' organisational structure which will, in turn, lead to greater efficiency. The new partnership is also set to boost synergies between the two carriers. In 2011, the Montenegrin government offered a 30% stake in its national airline. At the time, Etihad purchased the tender documentation but never made a takeover bid. Earlier this year, the Serbian Minister for Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy, Aleksandar Vulin, said Montenegro Airlines' operations could be run out of Belgrade following negotiations between the carrier and Etihad.