Turkish Airlines is interested in acquiring a stake in its Croatian counterpart following a visit by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the country last week, local media report. Mr Erdogan was accompanied by over one hundred Turkish businessmen, among which were representatives from the carrier. The two countries agreed to further strengthen economic cooperation, particularly in the tourism sector, after they held a Croatian-Turkish Economic Forum, attended by 150 Turkish and 450 Croatian businesspeople. "I think that we will soon triple our investments in the Croatian tourism sector. We are interested in privatisation projects which are under way in Croatia", the Turkish President said. Both Turkish Airlines and its Croatian counterpart are members of the Star Alliance group.
Turkish Airlines has been linked to a possible equity investment in Croatia Airlines on several occasions, most recently last year. In a statement made to EX-YU Aviation News in 2015 concerning the matter, the Turkish carrier 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". Turkish Airlines has been steadily increasing its operation to Croatia over the past few years and now runs double daily flights between Istanbul's Ataturk Airport and Zagreb. On the other hand, Croatia Airlines has suspended the route, with its slots taken over by Turkish. Furthermore, the two enjoy a codeshare partnership on the service, which has just been expanded to cover domestic flights in Croatia. On May 10, Dubrovnik will become Turkish Airlines' second destination in Croatia. "The new route between Istanbul and Dubrovnik will be the beginning of a new story for both countries", Dubrovnik's Mayor said over the weekend.
Turkish Airlines' CEO, Temel Kotil, previously noted that the carrier is looking into acquiring other carriers in either 2016 or 2017. Last month, the Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denis Zvizdić, said Turkish had expressed interest in entering into a new partnership with the country's former flag carrier B&H Airlines, after Turkey hosted a similar economic forum with Bosnia to the one held with Croatia. Croatia Airlines' privatisation process has been ongoing for almost three years. Last May, the Croatian government formally selected the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to seek out potential investors by October 2015. At this point, it is unknown whether the IFC has come up with prospective buyers. The government itself has pitched the Croatian carrier to several airlines so far, but little interest has been shown. Last month, the country's State Property Management Office (DUUDI) commenced tender procedures to select a consultant to evaluate the value of a number of state-owned companies, among which is Croatia Airlines. Based on the evaluation, the government will decide whether to go ahead with the sale.