Government will select bid that “best serves the country”
Portugal’s minister of finance said on Thursday that the winner of the TAP privatisation process will not “simply” be the highest bidder but the one that best serves the country and the national economy.
“The privatisation of TAP is to better serve the country and the national economy. We’re not going to privatise TAP simply at the highest [proposed] value,” Fernando Medina said at a press conference after the cabinet meeting approved the conditions that start the airline’s privatisation process.
According to the finance minister, the government is looking for “an investor of scale in the airline sector and is not looking to attract pure investments of a financial nature”, such as entities that aim to later sell parts of the company, “removing TAP’s strategic contribution to the country”.
The percentage of the group to be privatised has not yet been defined, but all that is known is that it will be at least 51% of the capital, with up to 5% reserved for employees.
“Whether it will be 51%, 60%, 70%, 80% or even, as the Prime Minister admitted – 100% – this has not been defined. It will be defined at a later stage in the process, depending on what the government considers to be essential in terms of security in the fulfilment of the defined strategic objectives,” explained Fernando Medina.
The minister for infrastructure, João Galamba, who was also present at the press conference, stressed that “it’s not a privatisation like in the past, where the government said it wanted to sell a fixed percentage”, but rather an operation aimed at “fulfilling strategic objectives”, which may correspond to different percentages.
As for the value of the airline, which was evaluated by two consultants whose conclusions were not given, the government pointed out that it is not just an accounting evaluation but will also take into account the valuation of the company sought by the buyer.
German airline Lufthansa has already expressed interest in buying part of the capital of TAP, it confirmed in a statement sent to Agence France Presse (AFP).
The company said that the two companies can complement each other “very well, particularly thanks to TAP’s network of routes to and from South America”.
President wants national interest safeguarded
Portugal’s president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has said that he wants to see if the conditions that safeguard the national interest in the reprivatisation of TAP are included in the law that he will receive from the government, or if they are just referred to in the specifications.
“It’s one thing for it to be in law, to have the force of law. It’s more lasting, it’s stronger. It’s another thing to have it in a set of administrative rules. So, looking at all this, which means that it’s not possible to separate one part from the others, I will consciously make the decision later,” Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said, answering questions from journalists in Oeiras, near Lisbon on Thursday.
The head of state, who was speaking outside an initiative in the Taguspark auditorium, reiterated that he wants to “see what the law says about the legal conditions for safeguarding the state’s position” in relation to TAP, emphasising that what remains “in the law is more lasting and has more force”, while “in the specifications, it has administrative force, but not legal force”.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa refused to comment further on the reprivatisation process: “I can’t say any more than that because I don’t know the law. I’m just saying what I think is important in the law in order to make an overall judgement about it. Let’s wait and see.”