Air Portugal's new owners have said they are planning to expand the carrier's operations after privatization. They pledged a massive capital injection to get the airline on its feet again.
The Gateway consortium that signed a deal Wednesday on securing a 61-percent stake in Portugal's flag carrier TAP said it intended to inject fresh capital into the airline that is sitting on a debt pile of more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion).
Analysts said the deal's value could rise to 488 million euros depending on TAP's 2015 performance, with the new owners paying 354 million euros for their majority stake.
The consortium is headed by David Neeleman, who founded the JetBlue airline in the US and is the CEO of Brazil's Azul carrier flying to Florida. Neeleman is partnering with Portuguese bus company owner Humberto Pedrosa in the Gateway consortium.
Neeleman said he was planning to expand TAP's operations to 10 more US destinations and eight more in Brazil, while bringing more passengers from those countries into Europe.
The deal is subject to regulatory approval, which experts said could take months. The planned privatization scheme has survived years of legal challenges, labor strikes and one failed attempt to sell the airline.
The Portuguese government had negotiated a deal in which 5 percent of the company would be sold to employees. The new owners won't be able to make mass layoffs for at least two and a half years after taking control of Air Portugal.
hg/bk (AP, AFP)