TAP privatisation faces (temporary) new hitch

As hitches go, this one may just be a glitch. Lisbon’s Supreme Tribunal yesterday accepted a “providência cautelar” which effectively blocks TAP’s trouble-torn privatisation at its 11th hour.

But the government has responded with alacrity saying the sale is “in the public interest”.

According to Observador website, the government hopes the embargo will be lifted by 5pm tomorrow (Friday), when the only runners in the field are expected to be presenting their final offers.

The embargo bid – presented by the group “Peço a Palavra” in cahoots with the

“Não TAP os Olhos” movement – was based on the premise that the government had broken privatisation law by not putting a tender out to choose the banks that valued the worth of the national airline.

But as Transport Minister Sérgio Monteiro confirmed last night, “everyone can see that privatisation is in the public interest”.

Observador stresses that Opposition parties have been in conflict over the sale – mostly due to the percentage that the government is prepared to relinquish.

For now, bidders Brazilian David Neeleman and Colombian Germán Efromovich are understood to be working on “improved proposals”, to be presented tomorrow.

How much their offers will have been improved is also in doubt, as Observador suggests Efromovich “has no intention of improving his initial proposal”.

But Monteiro has been adamant. “It is important that participants know the government will be intransigent in the defence of the interests of State patrimony,” he said yesterday.

This second government attempt to privatise the once booming national carrier has set the percentage up for sale at 66% (of which 5% was originally due to be held by workers).

But as the nation’s media has been explaining over recent months, TAP’s “value” is now so mired by debt that the government faces making “nothing, or next to nothing” from the sale.

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