TAP sale “to be closed today” amid Socialist pressure for second thoughts

The race is on to close the long-awaited TAP privatisation deal this afternoon, despite pressure from the Socialist party for a re-think.

In fact, national media is at odds with itself this morning over what is happening.

According to TVI24 television station, the deal will be ‘formalised’ this afternoon, giving the Atlantic Gateway consortium – jointly led by Portuguese transport mogul Humberto Pedrosa and Brazilian-American airline boss David Neeleman – 61% of the national airline.

But tabloid Correio da Manhã is running with the story that the sale will be delayed, despite the fact that TAP is haemorrhaging money and could run out of it completely “in a few weeks”.

At issue is an appeal sent by the PS Socialist parliamentary group to Parpública, the state company overseeing the sale.

The Socialists claim the deal is effectively “without the legal or political conditions to go ahead”, as the majority of parties in parliament are against it.

Also against is the “Peço a Palavra” citizens association – today threatening to sue Parpública if it forges ahead with the deal.

Peço a Palavra’s position is very similar to that of the Socialists.

Talking to Expresso, spokesperson António Pedro Vasconcelos said the deal had been pushed through by a failed government that now no longer exists.

Adding yet more confusion to the way ahead are the words of Humberto Pedrosa to radio TSF on Tuesday, affirming that he would be prepared to take a minority stake in TAP, depending on the conditions set by a future PS executive.

Thus, a bit like the country’s political situation, TAP’s immediate future is in no way clear.

Económico reports this morning that David Neeleman has travelled to Portugal for the second time in a week in order to close the deal, as if this shows some certainty that it will in fact go ahead.

What does seem sure, though, is that Neeleman still has to convince TAP’s creditors CGD and Novo Banco that Gateway can repay the airline’s debts, which at last count topped €647 million.

That meeting is believed to be going ahead as we write this article.

Another certainty, claims TVI24, is that any deal signed today will go ahead behind-closed-doors.

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