UPDATE 1-Portugal postpones airline sale, sticks to sale goal

Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:12am EST

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LISBON Dec 20 (Reuters) - Portugal said on Thursday it would postpone its long-awaited privatisation of debt-laden airline TAP after rejecting the sole bid by Colombian-Brazilian entrepreneur German Efromovich, but it still plans to beat its asset disposal target.

The TAP sale formed part of a privatisation plan required by Portugal's 78 billion euro ($103 billion) European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout.

However, Efromovich's offer for the flagship carrier, which is weighed down by an estimated 1.2 billion euros of debt, would have only reaped 35 million euros for the state coffers.

"This decision does not compromise the government's privatisation programme, which is still expected to surpass the target in terms of proceeds," Treasury Secretary Maria Luis Albuquerque told a briefing.

The TAP sale would be relaunched "at an opportune moment", she said.

The government had previously set a target to earn over 5 billion euros from the proceeds of asset sales.

It is still in the process of choosing the winning bid for airport operator ANA, which could raise 3 billion euros, with a decision expected by the end of December.

Albuquerque said Efromovich's offer, made via his Synergy investment company, had failed to produce guarantees it had sufficient funds to buy the airline and invest in its growth.

Through Synergy, Efromovich controls AviancaTaca - one of Latin America's leading commercial carriers with more than 100 routes in 14 countries.

($1 = 0.7542 euros) (Reporting By Sergio Goncalves and Filipe Alves; Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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