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Lufthansa and United Alleged to Partner for TAP Air Portugal Acquisition
American serial airline entrepreneur David Neeleman is close to selling his share of Atlantic Gateway, the holding controller of Portuguese flag carrier TAP Air Portugal, to the Lufthansa Group, Portuguese newspaper Jornal de Negocios reported on Sunday. Neeleman controls 50 percent of Atlantic Gateway, which in turn owns 45 percent of TAP, with the Portuguese Government controlling 50 percent of the company and airline employees owning the remaining 5 percent.
A former leader of the opposition liberal-conservative Social Democratic Party, Luis Marques Mendes, has recently stated that “The marriage between the parties cannot last long,” Jornal de Negocios reported. “The negotiations between Neeleman and a major European airline for the sale of its stake in TAP are very advanced although they are not closed yet,” continued Mendes.
It is believed that Lufthansa and United Airlines, two Star Alliance members, are partnering in this acquisition and are in a leading position to close the deal, although reports suggest that talks with Air France-KLM and IAG (International Airline Group) have also been held.
E.U. regulations do not allow non-E.U. entities to own more than 49 percent of a European carrier.
Last week TAP reported a EUR 105.5 million ($114.5 million) net loss during 2019. TAP ownership decided to distribute bonuses to senior management last year even in the face of very disappointing financial results.
David Neeleman has been recently involved in the launch and development of Brazilian low-cost airline Azul Linhas Aereas Brasileiras after he had founded in the past successful carriers Morris Air and JetBlue Airways in the U.S. and Westjet in Canada.
He is currently involved in start-up carrier Breeze Airways that will connect underserved markets in the U.S. using Embraer 195-E1 aircraft coming from Azul, as the Brazilian carrier upgrades to a fleet of more efficient next-generation Embraer 195-E2 aircraft.
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