Serbia seeks investors for airline to replace JAT

Mon Aug 1, 2011 8:21am EDT

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* Tender is part of restructuring of JAT Airways

* Runs until Sept. 30

SARAJEVO Aug 1 (Reuters) - Serbia opened the door to investors for a new airline to replace indebted state-owned JAT Airways with the launch of a tender on Monday.

Serbia had hoped to sell a majority stake in the socialist-era giant to Turkish Airlines but no agreement was reached. A first tender for the sale of a 51 percent stake in JAT, priced at 51 million euros ($73 million), failed in 2008.

Eligible investors, mainly airlines and financial backers with investment in airlines of at least 5 percent, must show a consolidated balance sheet of more than 200 million euros and the transit of more than 1.5 million passengers in 2010.

The tender expires on Sept. 30, the ministry said on its website. No ministry official was immediately available to comment.

Last November, the Serbian government chose consultant Deloitte as adviser in the JAT sale and gave it a 12-month deadline to analyse the company's finances, find a strategic partner and launch an airline by end-2011.

Last year, JAT Airways announced a 16.5 million euro loss for 2009 and borrowed 51.5 million from the government to renew its fleet and prepare for a potential partnership with Turkish Airlines.

To cut losses, JAT in 2010 sold its headquarters building in Belgrade to state landline operator Telekom Srbije for 10.3 million euros.

JAT operates a fleet of 15 aircraft.

($1 = 0.696 Euros)

(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by David Hulmes)

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