Azores regional government to sell off up to 85% of Azores Airlines

  • Lusa
  • 7 March 2023

The final decision on the sale of the airline will be announced "between September and October".

The specifications for the privatisation of Azores Airlines, which belongs to the SATA group, provide for the sale of a “minimum” of 51% and a “maximum” of 85% of the company’s share capital, the Azores government said on Tuesday.

The Azores government has decided to “approve the resolution that approves and publishes the specifications of the procedure for the sale of shares representing at least 51% and at most 85% of the share capital of SATA Internacional/Azores Airlines, proposed by the board of directors of SATA Holding,” the regional secretary of finance, planning and public administration said today.

Duarte Freitas was speaking to journalists today in Horta during the presentation of the deliberations of the Regional Government Council meeting on 4 March.

“According to commercial legislation, when there is less than 10% of the capital of a given entity, rights are lost in terms of the board of directors, and the region wants to keep those rights,” he said, to justify the maximum 85% sale.

He added that the publication of the tender announcement for the privatisation of the majority of Azores Airlines’ share capital is scheduled to take place between 15 and 17 March and that the delivery of the proposal will be between 15 and 17 June.

The final decision on the sale of the airline will be announced “between September and October”.

“The government remains very convinced and determined to follow all the appropriate procedures to follow the privatisation of Azores Airlines because this is a process that, if it does not work out, could jeopardise the entire SATA group,” he stressed.

According to the regional secretary, the buyer must respect collective labour agreements and not make collective redundancies or cut jobs “for at least 30 months”.

Among the obligations is also to maintain the headquarters and “effective management” of Azores Airlines in the Azores “for a minimum period of 30 months” and to submit a proposal to the public tender for the non-liberalised routes between the mainland and the Azores and between the Azores and Madeira.

The specifications will also require the continuity of routes between Lisbon/Ponta Delgada, Lisbon/Lajes, Porto/Ponta Delgada and Porto/Lajes “for a minimum period of 30 months”, as well as the connection of the Azores to the US and Canadian diaspora during that period.

The selection criteria include the “presentation and guarantee of execution of an adequate and coherent” strategic project (25%), the “contribution to reinforcing the economic capacity” of the company (25%) and the “assumption of commitments in terms of labour stability” (15%).

The “suitability and technical experience of management in the sector” will be worth 10%, the “price per share and overall price” 15%, while the “contribution to strengthening the structure and shareholder stability” will have a weight of 5% in the final evaluation.

Commitments to sustainability” (2.5%) and the “absence of legal or economic-financial constraints” (2.5%) are also defined as selection criteria.

Duarte Freitas also praised the “exemplary posture” of the company’s trade union and Workers’ Commission and revealed that judge Araújo de Barros (who presided over the Azores section of the Court of Auditors) would be the president of the tender’s jury.

In June, the European Commission approved Portuguese state aid to support the restructuring of the airline of €453.25 million in loans and state guarantees, providing ‘remedies’ such as a reorganisation of the structure and divestment of a controlling stake (51%) in Azores Airlines.