Polish airline LOT wants to find new investor in 2014

WARSAW Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:55am EST

WARSAW Jan 21 (Reuters) - Polish state-owned airline LOT wants to bring a new strategic investor into the company through a capital increase this year as its losses gradually decline, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

LOT, in which the Polish state has a stake of nearly 68 percent, has spent years looking for a new investor but weak profitability and tight competition have hampered its efforts.

"We, the board of LOT, are not selling our own shares. We are formally looking for candidates who would buy new LOT shares from a capital increase," CEO Sebastian Mikosz said.

He said LOT was focusing on strategic investors but would also welcome, for example, private equity funds. He declined to say if any talks with potential investors were under way.

Polish media have said the company that operates Warsaw airport, eastern Europe's largest, could be merged with LOT as part of the privatisation, something Mikosz denied.

"There are no plans and there has never been a plan to merge us with the airport," Mikosz said.

LOT said last year it expected a 2013 operating loss of around 20 million zlotys ($6.5 million) - still its best result in six years and around 122 million less than it had anticipated thanks to restructuring efforts.

"This result might be slightly better," Mikosz said. "Returning to sustainable profitability remains the absolute priority (in 2014)."

The European Commission is investigating whether Poland broke competition rules when it gave LOT about 400 million zlotys in a first tranche of state aid.

"We do not expect to ask for the second tranche of aid in the first half of 2014," Mikosz said.

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