Air France-KLM and Russian carrier Aeroflot are among four groups to have made preliminary bids to buy state-owned Czech Airlines (CSA). The Czech government is looking to sell its 91.5 per cent stake in the airline.
Air France-KLM and Aeroflot have been joined in the initial process by private equity investment firm Odien, and a joint bid by charter airline Travel Service and Czech company Unimex Group.
As part of the conditions of sale, companies from a non-EU member state cannot seek more than a 49 per cent share of the airline, so Aeroflot will need to find Czech partner to proceed with the bid. In a statement Valery Okulov, CEO for the the Russian carrier said:
“If Aeroflot is confirmed as a participant in the second stage of the tender we would analyze information gathered from the financial audit, and on the basis of a detailed business plan make a binding offer as required by the tender conditions.”
The sale also requires the winning bidder to maintain CSA’s status as a Czech national carrier, with its base at Ruzyne Prague airport.
Both Air France-KLM and Aeroflot are members of the Skyteam alliance, of which CSA has also been a member since 2001. Air France-KLM has made no secret of its intention to take part in the “necessary consolidation of the [airline] sector”, and says that CSA’s network “is highly complimentary” to that of its own. It adds that the purchase of the airline would enable it to “strengthen its position in central and eastern Europe”.
Binding offers are not expected before June, with the sale likely to be completed by September.
Report by Mark Caswell