UAE's Etihad denies Croatia Airlines stake talks

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Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has said that is currently not in talks to acquire a stake in Croatia Airlines, following media speculation in the Balkan country.

Croat newspaper Jutarnji List claimed that before October 15 the country’s government will tender for the sale of the airline, in which it owns 90 percent, with a new investor potentially being announced in February next year.

The newspaper, citing unidentified sources, said that Garuda Indonesia and China Southern Airlines were among other possible investors. It reported that Transport Minister Sinisa Hajdas Doncic and Croatia Airlines Sinisa Petrovic were due to fly out to Indonesia next week in order to drum up interest in a deal.

Jutarnji List did not specify how much of its shareholding in Croatia Airlines the government was looking to offload, but European Commission rules specify that non-EU entities can only own up to 49 percent of the company.

An Etihad spokesperson told Arabian Business that the carrier “is not in talks with Croatia Airlines”.

Earlier this month Etihad secured 49 percent of Belgrade-based JAT Airways in a deal worth $200m that will also see the airline rebranded as Air Serbia.

Air Serbia is Etihad’s sixth equity partner, it also owns 29.21 percent of Germany’s airberlin, 40 percent of Air Seychelles, 10.5 percent of Virgin Australia, 2.99 percent of Irish carrier Aer Lingus and 24 percent of India’s Jet Airways.

The investment by Etihad is part of wider investment in the European country by the UAE. Earlier this year, the Gulf state made the largest investment in Serbia in more than 30 years, potentially helping to lift the Balkans state out of a deep recession.

Earlier in month it was also reported that Etihad was in “advanced talks” with Poland’s treasury for a potential equity investment in the country’s LOT Polish Airlines.  Etihad neither confirmed nor denied any negotiations.

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