airBaltic studies investors, crashes aircraft wing

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Latvian airline evaluates three potential strategic investors

The Latvian airline airBaltic is “nearing the finish line” to finding a long-term investor for full or partial privatisation, the Baltic country’s transport minister says, as reported by the news agency LETA.

The international financial consultancy and asset management firm Lazard Freres has actively been searching for potential investors for two years, a process that is now close to the end, Uldis Augulis said, adding that three potential candidates are being evaluated.

Without naming them, or which countries they are from, he said that the government would make a final decision by the end of the year. The offers are “interesting” and would benefit the development of the economy.

However, there is no rush in selling airBaltic, the minister added, and if the government is not satisfied with the candidates then the search will continue.

As previously reported, Danish investor Lars Thuesen bought a 20% stake in the carrier earlier this year, a shareholding that had previously been held by German investor Ralf-Dieter Montag-Girmes who bought it towards the end of 2015. The remaining 80% belongs to the Latvian state.

Horizon 2021, the airBaltic business plan, specifies the need for €50 million in additional capital but that the airline will not request further investments from the state.

Clipped wings
In related news, one of the airline’s Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft that had just performed a flight from Turku to Riga was involved in a costly accident, crash-aé reports. After passengers and crew had left, technicians wanted to move the plane but the end of the right wing struck the railing of a jet bridge, almost cutting off the end of the wing. The aircraft is currently in maintenance and an investigation has been launched to determine the circumstances.

Meanwhile, airBaltic says it will launch two new routes from Riga next year to tie in with the World Cup in Russia. Flights will start to Sochi on May 14 and Kaliningrad on April 16.

Wolfgang Reuss, SVP for network management said: “We are delighted to add Sochi and Kaliningrad to our route map next year, increasing the number of new destinations for next year to seven. Both routes will strengthen the business and tourism ties between Russia and Latvia, and will create convenient new connections with European and Scandinavian airports. Next summer both Sochi and Kaliningrad will be among the host cities for 2018 FIFA World Cup and the new connection via Riga will offer convenient flight options for those who are planning to attend the championship.”

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