HNA Group plans to buy an initial 7% stake in Atlantic Gateway, a private consortium that owns 50% of TAP Portugal. This could raise a stake that could reach up to 20% of the Portugal flag carrier, TAP spokesperson Isabel Palma confirmed to ATW in Lisbon.
Meanwhile, the Portuguese government increased its stake in TAP Portugal to 50% last week, the Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported.
On May 20, Portugal’s new Socialist government signed an agreement to partially review privatization of the airline.
Palma said HNA will take a 7% minority stake in Atlantic Gateway. “On the other hand, HNA is due to enter into Azul’s share-capital, which has subscribed bonds in TAP that may be converted into shares, should that happen in the future. If so, this could mean HNA may come to have an indirect participation in TAP via Azul [up to 13%]. In the end, and putting both together, it could go up to 20% in the whole,” Palma said.
In November 2015, Haikou, China-based HNA Group, the parent of Hainan Airlines, made a firm commitment to buy a 23.7% stake in Azul Brazilian Airlines for $450 million.
Portuguese weekly Expresso reported HNA’s acquisition of TAP’s shares should come within the next three months. HNA Group is set to acquire part of the €90 million ($100 million) worth of convertible bonds in shares issued by Azul to bail out TAP.
“So far, there are only options that may or may not happen; nothing is firm or factual yet,” Palma said.
In 2015, the Atlantic Gateway consortium, which is partly backed by JetBlue Airways and Azul founder David Neeleman, acquired a 61% stake in TAP from the Portuguese government.
Just two months after Portugal agreed to a private consortium taking a majority stake in TAP, the country’s government scaled back the acquiring consortium’s share to 45%.