Portugal Looks at TAP Airline Disposal Decision This Year

Portugal’s government may decide before January on whether to proceed with a second attempt to dispose of state-owned airline TAP-Transportes Aereos Portugueses as more suitors express interest.

“It’s probable that a decision will be made by the end of the year,” Secretary of State for Transport Sergio Monteiro told reporters in Lisbon today.

Monteiro said earlier this month that TAP is in better shape to be sold now than in 2012, when Portuguese authorities spurned the sole offer from Brazilian investor German Efromovich, owner of the Avianca airline brands in South America. The government agreed to dispose of TAP as a condition for emergency aid from the International Monetary Fund and European Union in 2011.

Net income last year at Lisbon-based TAP surged 42 percent to 34 million euros ($43.7 million) as the airline added flights to Brazil and Africa.

Monteiro declined to comment on potential buyers. A spokesman for Portuguese investor Miguel Pais do Amaral said on Sept. 18 that he and Frank Lorenzo, a former chairman of Continental Airlines Inc., expressed interest through a non-binding proposal after officials indicated they were open to offers.

“Our expectation is that the government will re-launch the sale process of TAP in coming weeks,” Salvador da Cunha, the spokesman, said by phone.

Air Europa is interested in TAP, daily Jornal de Negocios reported on Sept. 22, citing Jose Minguez, the Spanish carrier’s country manager in Portugal. Brazilian airline Azul Linhas Aereas Brasileiras is also studying an offer, weekly Expresso reported on Sept. 13, citing unidentified people in government and the industry.

Efromovich’s bid for TAP was rejected when Portugal’s government was dissatisfied with his financial guarantees. A spokesman for Efromovich in Lisbon didn’t answer two calls to his mobile phone for a comment today.

Azul said in an e-mail that it “denies information” in the Portuguese press of its possible interest. Air Europa’s Minguez wasn’t immediately available to comment.

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