airBaltic could become joint Baltic airline

Latvia's airbaltic national airline will be fully privatized in the next five years, the company's CEO Martin Gauss told journalists Wednesday.

The head of the airline indicated that an inflow of private capital is needed to ensure the company's development. The Latvian government might sell off its shares in Airbaltic gradually, with the investor initially becoming a minority shareholder and later acquiring a majority stake in the company.

The Latvian government would be ready for the sell-off already now and the plan will be implemented in the next five years, Gauss said.

Airbaltic which is 99.8-percent owned by the Latvian state serves about 60 destinations with direct flights from its home base in Riga, Latvia.

Separately, Transport Minister Anrijs Matiss opened the door to the idea of Baltic neighbors Estonia and Lithuania taking stakes in the airline to create a truly pan-Baltic brand.

The three Baltic states should have one airline in common and Latvia is ready to sell to Estonia and Lithuania stakes in its airbaltic carrier, Matiss said at a meeting with Estonian and Lithuanian journalists on Wednesday.

"We have consulted with our Estonian and Lithuanian colleagues on this matter but at the same time we are looking for foreign investors," the minister said.

"We are prepared to negotiate on stake sizes, who will get how much. But the majority stake or at least 51 percent should remain in the hands of the Baltic states," Matiss said.

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