Portugal’s Minister of Planning and Infrastructure, Pedro Marques, has had a goal to connect Portugal to the Far East “as soon as possible” according to the Macau Daily Times. With The HNA Group now looking to acquire an initial stake of 7% in Atlantic Gateway, a private consortium which owns a 50% stake in TAP Portugal, this goal looks like it will be achieved.
While the Portuguese government increased its stake in the airline to 50% last week, Humberto Pedrosa, majority partner, advised reporters in Lisbon at the weekend that the HNA Group stake, both direct and indirect, could climb to as much as 20%, and HNA would receive part of the €90 million (US$101 million) in convertible bonds in shares which would be issued by Azul Brazilian Airlines and which would help bail out TAP.
HNA Group, which is the parent company of Hainan Airlines, made a firm commitment to buy a 23.7% stake in Azul Brazilian Airlines for US$450 million in November last year, while in May this year the Socialist Portuguese government signed an agreement to partly review the privatization of TAP. This follows on from events last year when Atlantic Gateway acquired an original 61% stake in TAP, only for the Portuguese government to scale back the stake to 45%.
Part of the reason for the privatisation of TAP relates to the 2011 bailout agreement signed between Portugal and the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Commission. The government’s position was exacerbated by the fact that in June 2015 TAP’s debts had exceeded €1 billion (US$1.12 billion).
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