|Hogan: Regional acquisition not discussed|
The Vice Chairman of Air Serbia and President and CEO of Etihad Airways, James Hogan, says no decision has been made concerning the possible acquisition of a regional carrier on behalf of Air Serbia. It comes after the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, said late last year the airline was sizing up investment opportunities. However, Mr Hogan told the "Blic" daily recently, "The Air Serbia Supervisory Board would have to consider this matter. So far, there have been no discussions relating to it". Mr Vučić previously said, "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. Were there no political obstacles, Air Serbia would have already acquired two or three companies in the region".
Montenegro Airlines has been tipped as a strong contender for acquisition after Etihad Airways began screening the company late last year following the signing of a Commercial Cooperation Agreement between the two companies. The Montenegrin carrier has been slated for privatisation this year. The country's Ministry for Transport and Maritime Affairs plans to sell a minority stake in the airline, which is to be offered to potential investors through an international tender. However, it is already the third consecutive year that Montenegro Airlines has been listed for privatisation. In 2011, the government offered a 30% stake in its national airline. At the time, Etihad purchased the tender documentation but never made a takeover bid. Last 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.
Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, last touched on the issue two and a half year ago. In October 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". Etihad Airways itself has stakes in eight carriers, four of which are in Europe, including Air Serbia. Last week, Air Malta declined to comment on reports that it is in discussions with Etihad over a link-up. Reports in the Maltese press have spoken of negotiations between the two carriers.