The former Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure in the Croatian government, Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, has said that a total of six companies had previously expressed interest in buying a stake in the national carrier and has urged the country' s newly elected Prime Minister to resume Croatia Airlines' privatisation process. "A total of six parties had expressed interest. Among them was Lufthansa, as well as a company from Cyprus and Greece each. We also held talks with an Indonesian (Garuda) and Chinese (Hainan) airline and there was initial interest from both. It was up to Croatia Airlines to decide which path they would take. Usually, the sale of a company and the search for a strategic partner lasts four to five years. This is not a priority for the new government", Mr Hajdaš Dončić said. He added that after the carrier sells its lucrative slots at London's Heathrow Airport, in line with its plans, the search for a partner will become more difficult.
Croatia Airlines' CEO, Krešimir Kučko, previously said that foreign carriers had shown no real intention in acquiring a stake in the company. "No one has given a firm offer. The state hired a consultant who was supposed to prepare the privatisation procedure. However, they only completed part of the job and tried gauge interest on the market", Mr Kučko said. He added, "The company should be recapitalised as soon as possible, so as to allow it to develop and grow. Unlike privatisation, it will safeguard national interests. We can expand at a respectable pace using our own resources, but the market can take on more". However, Mr Hajdaš Dončić argues, "Croatia Airlines should have been dealt with prior to the country's accession to the European Union together with the concession of Zagreb Airport. The two should have been linked. The Serbs made a wise move. If you sell slots to cover your costs that signals the end. Croatia Airlines has lost some 30% of its value in my opinion. What are you selling? You have no value on the open market".
The former minister has warned that the Croatian carrier now has to deal with falling revenues, as well as costs related to a settlement in the United States. "There is debt on tax which was accumulated in 2008 on behalf of the airline's sales agent in the US. In 2013/14 it was identified that Croatia Airlines did not pay tax for the sold tickets and an out-of-court settlement had to be reached amounting to ten million dollars. The entire case is odd but now dues must be made". He added, "Croatia Airlines did not complete its repositioning and did not divide the company into three profitable entities. Revenues are declining". The previous Croatian government had planned to sell a majority stake to an EU-based airline, retaining only a 25% share. Furthermore, local pension funds were interested in acquiring a 5 - 10% stake had the government found a serious strategic partner that would have treated the investment as a long-term commitment. However, since mid-2015, there has been little to no progress in Croatia Airlines' privatisation process.