With the deadline for receipt of binding offers now just 24-hours away, Portugal’s media is reporting that the government is “ready to sell TAP within the next two weeks”.
This is apparently the time given during the last (abortive) privatisation process, and very likely to be the same period given this time round.
With Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho saying it is not the price but the necessity for privatisation that is most important, contenders in the race are now very much narrowed down to a field of two, possibly three – but more likely two, reports Diário de Notícias.
The “serious bidders” are Brazilian David Neeleman, owner of Azul airlines, and Colombian German Efromovich, head of Avianca.
Another possible contender, says DN, is Brazilian Paulo Kakinoff of Gol airways, although his interest is less certain.
A ray of sunshine in the otherwise bleak landscape (in which pilots union SPAC recently declared it had “wiped €35 million” off the value of the company as a result of its recent industrial action), comes the news that if Neeleman takes over, he does not want to fire people.
But 24 hours before the 5pm May 15 deadline, a lot still could happen.
The PSD/CDS-PP executive’s decision to sell-off 66% of TAP goes against Socialist views that only 49% of the company should be offloaded.
In the last 10 years since TAP was in the hands of Fernando Pinto – brought in to ‘oversee privatisation’ – it has gone from a position of liquid strength and reputation to being over a billion euros in debt and tainted by strikes, delays and cancellations.
A number of readers writing in to Portuguese newspapers have complained that Pinto “does not deserve” his annual €475,000 salary, while presidential candidate Paulo Morais has actually suggested the government has been in cahoots with the unions in industrial action, to decimate TAP’s worth so that it can be “delivered into the hands of powerful friends”. (see: https://www.portugalresident.com/president-hopeful-claims-tap-air-portugal-problems-%E2%80%9Call-an-elaborate-plot%E2%80%9D)