Investor in airline TAP threatens to pull-out if Portugal takes back control
LISBON Dec 18 (Reuters) - Private investors in indebted Portuguese airline TAP could pull out, likely forcing it out of business, if the new Socialist government succeeds in retaking a controlling interest in the carrier, one of the investors said on Friday.
The government this week started talks with the investors, American-Brazilian aviation tycoon David Neeleman and Portuguese bus company owner Humberto Pedrosa, to try and change a privatisation sealed last month by the previous administration.
The state sold a 61 percent stake in TAP to the private consortium, but new prime minister Antonio Costa has pledged to get the state's interest back to 51 percent from 34 percent now.
"TAP has a lot of debt, but it has synergies with Azul," Neeleman told channel TVI, referring to his Brazilian airline.
"However, if everything changes and TAP becomes a state company, we are not interested in that. That would be very different from the contract that we have signed."
TAP flies various routes to Portuguese-speaking Brazil.
Neeleman, founder of U.S. budget airline JetBlue, said that without private owners, TAP would likely follow the same path as Estonian Air, which stopped flying on Nov. 7.
"That's a big danger for TAP. TAP deserves to survive," Neeleman said.
The previous centre-right government had argued the airline faced imminent collapse, making the privatisation a matter of urgency. Continuación...