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airBaltic targets investors for expansion

An independent assessment is being made to see if a stock exchange listing is viable, the CEO revealed today.

Investors are interested in buying into airBaltic as part of a possible stock exchange listing, the Riga-based airline’s chief executive Martin Gauss told Latvian Public Broadcasting this morning.

Investment banks are currently making an independent assessment of the airline and whether listing its shares on the stock exchange to attract new capital would be viable, Gauss told LTV’s Morning Panorama show.

airBaltic is profitable and has “become an important airline in Europe”, he said, adding: “Maybe we’ll be quoted on the stock exchange”.

The carrier continues to grow, he said. This year it will carry more than 4 million passengers, which is equivalent to more than double the population of Latvia.

airBaltic is a joint stock company that was established in 1995. Its primary shareholder is the Latvian state, which holds 80.05% of the stock, while Danish businessman Lars Thuesen holds the remainder through his fully-owned Latvian limited liability company Aircraft Leasing 1 SIA.

Gauss did not name the independent investment bank representatives who are assessing the airline but claimed, “They see us as one of the top candidates in Europe. […] That is the view from the outside.”

He added: “If the shareholders are okay with it and it’s the right time and we have success – why not?”

Going long-haul
There have been reports that airBaltic could launch long-haul routes from Riga, such as a direct route to China, but Gauss cautioned that this would not be happening any time soon.

“We can fly up to seven hours from Riga – beyond that we will not fly,” he said. “But we want to have a long-haul carrier come to Riga, as we are the perfect airline to give passengers to a long-haul carrier because of our transfer system, and then the carrier can take the passengers anywhere.”

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