airBaltic CEO Bertolt Flick is reportedly “ready” to purchase the Latvian State’s 52.6% shareholding in airBaltic (Baltic Course, 28-Sep-2010). Mr Flick, through his holding company Baltijas Aviacijas Sistemas (BAS), holds the remaining 47.2% of the airline. According to Mr Flick, his recent announcement outlining plans to create an LCC in neighbouring Lithuania has necessitated that the Latvian State establish its commercial strategy regarding the airline over the medium-term. He said China's Hainan Airlines has expressed an interest in acquiring the State’s interest in the airline.
CEO to consider buying state shares in airBaltic
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airBaltic reaps rewards of restructuring rigour in Riga. Launch operator of CS300 returns to growth
On 28-Nov-2016 airBaltic took delivery of the world's first Bombardier CS300 for commercial service, which will begin on 14-Dec-2016 with a flight from Riga to Amsterdam. It will receive a further 19 of the aircraft variant by 2019.
Just five years ago airBaltic was heavily loss-making and close to bankruptcy. Under CEO Martin Gauss Latvia's national airline has negotiated a successful restructuring programme, established a track record of growing profits, secured a private investor alongside the national government, made significant load factor gains, and is now returning to capacity growth.
The new CSeries order should allow airBaltic to build on these achievements by replacing its ageing Boeing 737s with one of the most modern and efficient narrowbodies aircraft in the world, while also providing additional growth capacity. Together with its Dash-8 turboprop aircraft this purchase should give it a fleet well adapted to the niche needs of a hybrid regional hub airline based in northern Europe's smaller markets.
Lufthansa and Etihad: equity tie up could further align mutual strategy, but marriage unlikely
Greater cooperation between Lufthansa and Etihad reflects their local and global challenges growing in quantity and complexity. Contact between the two has led to speculation that the partnership could radically expand to include an equity tie up, with rumoured merger talks.
Their initial Dec-2016 codeshare announcement was, in practical terms, small but showed the possibility, as they stated, to expand cooperation. However, it would be a leap to go from their handful of codeshares to a 17-Jan-2017 article from Italian daily newspaper Il Messaggero that Etihad could invest in Lufthansa on the way to a possible merger between the two. A subsequent denial in a Reuters story that "A financial stake is out of the question at the moment", does little to dispel the rumour. Were it not for the last three words of that statement the rumour would lack credibility.
There is certainly logic for a deeper partnership - and the two have danced this waltz before. Equity involvement from airlines can cement partnerships, add to board influence and partially allow one side to gain financially from any matter it feels it is compromising away. Nevertheless, there are obstacles to a full blown merger, and even to Etihad's taking a 30% to 40% stake. A marriage between the new bedfellows does not seem an immediate prospect. Nonetheless the logic is there for a move; and the mere fact of a potential move is sufficient to rock the equilibrium.