Privatisation of TAP? Sale “could take place this year”
Ready for another battle with the government: CHEGA leader André Ventura (centre) flanked by two MPs

Privatisation of TAP? Sale “could take place this year”

Conversations with Lufthansa, Air France/ KLM and IAG “have advanced”

With Expresso reporting today that the Socialist government wants to accelerate the re-privatisation of TAP – to have the company sold off within the first few months of 2023, right wing CHEGA has called for an urgent hearing of minister for infrastructures and housing (Pedro Nuno Santos).

Explains SIC television news, CHEGA wants clarification on the bottom line of Expresso’s report: that the government could be ready to sell the airline in its “almost totality” – not just the 50% referred to by prime minister António Costa earlier this year.

In CHEGA’s viewpoint, the possibility of privatising the nation’s flagship airline “grossly contradicts everything that has (previously) been defended by the Socialists.

“It is worth recalling that the reversion of the (first) privatisation of TAP was one of the great banners of the first government of António Costa, on the basis that TAP was strategic for the country and for this reason should stay within the State”, says a statement by the party.

“The reversion received strong criticism for the Accounts Court which affirmed it would not be efficient and would burden taxpayers in various millions of euros…” Indeed, since the government decided to ‘wrestle back control’ of TAP, “the Portuguese people have had to pay out more than €3 billion on the airline”, CHEGA’s statement stresses, highlighting the price tag this exercise already carries.

The perceived lunacy of renationalising TAP was one of the many themes brought up by former PSD leader Rui Rio in the election campaign last year. At the time, António Costa can be seen and heard on record stressing the airline would soon be “in condition” for the government to sell off 50%.

A scenario where “almost the totality” of the airline was to be put into private hands, after such massive State spending, has not previously been ‘on the table’.

Expresso’s story this week describes a scenario where literally anything could happen. The government is said to be best disposed towards a sale to Lufthansa or Air France/ KLM, but Air France is also in the running to buy up ITA (former Alitalia), and if this happens, it may not have the funds to purchase a share in TAP…

The only prerequisite to the sale, says Expresso, is that TAP retains its ‘hub’ in Lisbon.

“A lot of water will run under the bridge” before any decisions are made, says the paper – but it is clear that ‘concentration and rationalization of networks’ are the dominant focus of airline company strategy in the post-Covid era.

Not exactly strengthening TAP’s position will be the hugely negative stories swirling about the airline’s efficiency this summer, powered by indignant and exhausted customers.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com