TAP ‘sells’ to Brazilian entrepreneur backed by Portuguese transport business

Portugal’s Council of Ministers has today announced that the winning bid for TAP Air Portugal is the one presented by Brazilian entrepreneur and airline boss David Neeleman, backed by Portuguese transport empire Barraqueiro, owned by Humberto Pedroso.

Initial reactions in the media are that this is a ‘win-win-win’ decision, benefiting not only the trouble-torn airline, but the nation’s taxpayers.

As SIC’s José Gomes Ferreira pointed out, in all the months of uncertainty over the airline’s future, it has been the taxpayers’ money that has been keeping TAP afloat.

Now, at last, the national carrier with debts of “around a billion” stands to be recapitalised to the tune of between €300 and €350 million “at least”, and bolstered by as many as 53 new planes.

Público explains that Neeleman’s final bid is still unknown as he had been asked to make improvements on his initial offer a little over a week ago.

The head of what Público describes as the “third largest airline in Brazil – which carries over 20 million passengers per year” – Neeleman has maintained “a discreet attitude” through the privatisation process, only making one public declaration, in writing, on June 5.

In five paragraphs, the owner of Azul airlines stressed that his priority was investment in TAP, with the objective of restoring the airline to its former glory and reinforcing its “hub” in Lisbon.

The Gateway consortium – the name of the Neeleman/ Pedroso joint venture – will thus take on 61% of TAP, with 5% still reserved for the airline’s workers.

Público adds that if TAP staff do not take up the “last tranche”, then the 5% will also be handed over to the private investor, giving Gateway as much as a 66% participation in the deal.

When exactly Neeleman and Pedroso take over is uncertain, however.

According to Público the deal still needs the green light from Europe’s competitions authority, and is unlikely to go ahead before the autumn elections.

This leaves the question, “what will happen if the Socialists get to power?” – as PS leader António Costa has “guaranteed” that he will veto the deal if this happens.

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