June 6, 2019 / 4:03 PM / 11 days ago

Portugal's TAP airline expected to float shares soon -Euronext

LISBON, June 6 (Reuters) - Portugal’s flag carrier TAP-Air Portugal is preparing the ground for an expected initial public offering of its shares, the head of listings at Euronext Lisbon bourse said on Thursday.

TAP, which was partly privatised in 2015, is 50-percent owned by the Portuguese state. Private consortium Atlantic Gateway, led by Brazilian-U.S. airline mogul David Neeleman, has a 45 percent stake. TAP employees hold the remaining 5 percent.

“TAP is already doing the preparatory work, communicating with the market, presenting its results, which is not very common for privately owned companies,” Filipa Franco told Reuters. She said a four-year debenture loan worth at least 50 million euros ($56.47 million) that the company plans to list on Euronext on June 24 “will be a rehearsal for TAP so within some time, not very long, it can carry out its IPO.”

She added that she was in regular contact with the company.

TAP declined to comment but officials from the airline have previously said they were considering an IPO at some point in the future.

Portugal’s IPO scene has been in the doldrums for years. While peer-to-peer lending platform Raize last year completed the country’s first public listing since 2014, others have struggled, with retailer Sonae, porcelain maker Vista Alegre and toymaker Science4You all ditching planned IPOs.

Franco said she expected more companies to fund their growth by issuing shares.

“The only way for our companies to remain Portuguese and at the same time grow on a global level is for them to seek international capital at the bourse. If they do it via private transactions they’ll cease being Portuguese,” Franco said. ($1 = 0.8854 euros) (Reporting By Sergio Goncalves, writing by Andrei Khalip, editing by Axel Bugge and Kirsten Donovan)

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