Polish treasury says could dump whole stake in LOT airline sell-off


WARSAW (TVLW) – Poland could get rid of the entire stake it holds in national airline LOT after an initial public offering later this year and does not rule out selling part of the carrier to another airline, a deputy treasury minister said.

Zdzislaw Gawlik told Thomson Financial News in an interview that the public offering of LOT, in which the state now holds a 68 pct stake, is ‘a foregone conclusion’ and could take place in June or July.

‘It’s in the interest of the company, considering its investment needs, for the shares to start trading publicly as quickly as possible,’ Gawlik said.

Like other flagship carriers, LOT has come under pressure from budget airlines such as WizzAir and Irish Ryanair (nasdaq: RYAAY – news – people ), which have cut into its market share as thousands of Poles took to flying on holiday and as many as two million left to work abroad in recent years.

The airline has recently announced plans to open new links with Asia to offset growing competition on European and transatlantic routes and raise the net profit to 200 mln zlotys in 2012.

‘When it comes to an initial public offering of LOT it will consist of a new share issue,’ Gawlik said. ‘We cannot rule out that a sector investor will take part in a privatisation.’

Gawlik said the government expects to reach an agreement later this month with the receiver of bankrupt SwissAir, which still controls a 25 pct stake in LOT.

The deputy treasury minister also said he saw no reason for the state to hold any shares in the national airline, but said cutting the treasury’s stake in the carrier below 51 pct will require legal changes.

The move could prove tricky for the government as previous attempts to sell high-profile, state-owned assets have led to heated debates in parliament.

LOT, a member of the Lufthansa-led Star Alliance, flew 3.7 mln passangers and had a net profit of 539.8 mln zlotys in 2006, according to the most recent figures posted on its website.