David Neeleman, founder of Brazilian airline Azul and American low-cost carrier, JetBlue has won the bid for Portuguese carrier, TAP Air Portugal.
Both he and German Efromovich, owner of Avianca Taca Holding SA had a bid for 61 percent of the Portuguese company, though Neeleman’s group, known as Gateway, won in partnership with Portuguese bus company, Grupo Barraqueiro.
They will inject a minimum of €354 million and a maximum €488 million into the debt-laden airline, as well as providing an additional 53 planes. The winning group has also agreed to keep the carrier’s hub in Lisbon for at least 30 years.
Neeleman’s consortium “offered more money” than Efromovich, which will enable the airline to face the difficult challenges ahead, according to Sergio Monteiro, Portugal’s secretary of state for transport.
In Portugal’s first attempt to sell TAP two years ago, Efromovich was the only bidder out of 12 potential investors to make a firm offer but was rejected by the government because of dissatisfaction with the financial guarantees which were made.
Brazilian-American businessman David Neeleman has said he plans to keep the carrier separate from Azul for legal reasons, but will create and alliance to allow the companies to work together.
The Portuguese government is also selling 5 percent of the airline to TAP employees, while it retains the remaining 34 percent stake in the company, which can be bought within the next two years.
The consortium will have to pay Portugal €10 million immediately, and then invest €354 million into the company, while committing to taking on the company’s billion-euro debts, according to Portuguese Regional Development Minister Luís Poiares Maduro.
TAP´s sale is part of a multibillion-euro privatization program Portugal undertook as part of a three-year, €78 billion international bailout program, which ended this year.
Neeleman has founded a total of three airlines including JetBlue in 1998, and Azul – Brazil’s third largest carrier, in 2008.
TAP employs more than 5,000 employees and its fleet of 77 aircraft currently operates services to 88 destinations across Europe, Africa, and the Amercias.
The agreement will likely further strengthen ties between Portugal and Brazil. Brazil–Portugal relations have spanned over four centuries, beginning in 1532 with the establishment of São Vicente, the first Portuguese permanent settlement in the Americas and continuing through the Portuguese Empire.
Today, Brazil and Portugal share a privileged relationship, as evidenced in aligned political and diplomatic coordination, as well as economic, social, cultural, legal, technical and scientific cooperation.
These historical links mean that Portugal has remained a strategic European departure point for air services into Brazil. Currently TAP Portugal connects the country’s capital, Lisbon, with eleven destinations in Brazil, as well as offering non-stop flights between Oporto and Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. This network encompasses Belem, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Fortaleza, Natal, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Salvador, Sao Paulo and Viracopos.
According to OAG Schedules Analyser, there are currently 15 airlines offering flights between Europe and Brazil and TAP Portugal dominates this market with over 980,000 one-way seats available this year, based on published schedules.
This is a 25.6 per cent share of the total market from Europe to Brazil, ahead of TAM Airlines (15.7 per cent share), Air France (11.7 per cent), Lufthansa (9.2 per cent) and Iberia (7.6 per cent).
In our analysis we look at schedules from Europe to Brazil and the largest airline operators in this market over the past five years. The data shows that departure capacity in this market has risen 21.8 per cent between 2010 and 2014 and is forecasted to rise a further 2.1 per cent this year, based on published schedules.
TAP Portugal’s offer has grown 12.8 per cent during the past five years and will increase 1.3 per cent in 2015, although its total share slipped from 27.9 per cent in 2010 to 25.8 per cent last year.
Its share of the traffic has been diluted due to the significant growth between 2010 and 2014 of Air Europa (476.3 per cent) and Turkish Airlines (234.8 per cent), but also development among the larger operators in the market: KLM (up 80.7 per cent), Lufthansa (up 76.4 per cent), Alitalia (up 70.8 per cent) and British Airways (up 41.4 per cent).