Skift Take

Anyone want to take control of a small Azorean airline? More than two dozen parties are crunching the numbers.

The privatisation of a controlling stake in SATA Internacional is attracting interest from European airlines and private equity funds, increasing the chances of a successful sale, the small Azorean carrier’s new CEO, Teresa Goncalves, said on Friday.

The regional government of the Azores is selling between 51% and 85% of the capital of SATA Internacional, which operates 19 routes from the Portuguese archipelago in the mid-Atlantic to the rest of the country, Europe, the United States, Canada and Cape Verde.

The privatisation – imposed by the European Commission in exchange for approving a state bailout of 453 million euros ($487.20 million) in June 2022 – was launched on March 23.

The airline said two weeks ago that the deadline for ‘binding offers’, initially scheduled for June 20, was postponed until the end of July due to “great demand for the tender dossier by more than 31 entities”.

Goncalves, who took over as CEO in early April after just over three years as the firm’s chief financial officer, told Reuters there are approximately 10 entities that are routinely reviewing the reserved data the company shares with interested parties.

“We are in a very favourable geographical position, which is attractive. I’m very optimistic about the privatisation,” she said in an interview.

Goncalves added that among the interested parties were European airlines and private equity funds – something she said “improves the prospects” of the sale, along with other companies such as travel agencies. She declined to identify the interested parties, citing confidentiality.

Goncalves said the two determining factors for the tender are the buyer’s strategic business plan and financial plan rather than the price, since the buyer will have to inject capital into the company.

The successful buyer should strengthen the airline’s competitiveness in current and new markets and develop its Azorean hub.

SATA Internacional is “on the path of being self-sustainable at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024”, in line with the agreement with Brussels, Goncalves said.

The airline’s passenger numbers soared 67% to more than 1 million in 2022 and revenue doubled to a record 211 million euros, while its net loss shrank 39% to 34.2 million euros.

($1 = 0.9298 euros)

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; editing by Aislinn Laing and Paul Simao)

This article was written by Sergio Goncalves from Reuters and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].


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Tags: european airlines, portugal, private equity

Photo credit: A Sata flight near Toronto in 2010. The airline is attracting interest from investors. Source: Flickr/Michael

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