|Lufthansa rejects links to Croatia Airlines stake|
Lufthansa has denied claims it is seeking to acquire a stake in Croatia Airlines, two weeks following media reports it was one of three potential investors. According to a Lufthansa spokesperson, the airline has "no interest" in acquiring Croatia Airlines while labelling the assertions as "untrue", the "Ch Aviation" portal reports. It is the second time in five years that the German carrier has had to rebuff similar claims. The Croatian government resumed its national carrier's privatisation process in November last year following a failed attempt in 2013. It is yet to decide whether it will sell an outright stake or recapitalise the carrier, with the airline's CEO in favour of the latter.
Two weeks ago, the "Večernji list" daily reported that Lufthansa, Aegean Airlines and Turkish Airlines were all interested in partnering up with the Croatian carrier. According to the report, the International Finance Corporation, which has been tasked with seeking out potential investors for the Croatian government, was in the process of entering a second round of talks with the three established carriers. Lufthansa and Aegean were identified as the most serious candidates. Furthermore, the report suggested that Lufthansa would offer Croatia Airlines necessary capital in return for a stake, with the carrier to have its own member on the Lufthansa Group board while at the same time retaining its own separate brand, similar to Lufthansa's other airline acquisitions. On the other hand, "Večernji list" claimed that Aegean is interested in purchasing an outright stake in return for effective control over the carrier.
Neither Aegean Airlines nor Turkish Airlines have confirmed or denied their interest in the Croatian carrier. However, in a statement to EX-YU Aviation News last week, Turkish said, "Any major issue concerning Turkish Airlines such as joint ventures require a board decision of our company, which must be communicated to the Stock Exchange in order to advise our shareholders. Since we don’t have such a relevant board decision, we are not able to comment on such rumours". In an interview last year, the airline ruled out any interest in acquiring stakes in carriers in the former Yugoslavia following its experience with Bosnia and Herzegovina's B&H Airlines several years ago. Croatia Airlines is in its final month of a four year restructuring program, which has seen the carrier return to profitability but also limit its opportunities for growth. It plans to expand operations early next year with the lease of Embraer jets and the development of its east European network.