Lithuania still pondering airBaltic buy-in

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Lithuanian Transport Minister Rimantas Sinkevicius told the Verslo Zinios news daily he is still considering whether to buy into Latvia's airBaltic airline, with a decision likely in the fall, BNS reported Friday.

"In the autumn, we will start to discuss and consult with the Latvians if (...) we would be able to influence the number of flights if we had a non-controlling stake. Most probably, this would be a matter of agreement. This is why we are not rejecting the proposed option. Let's discuss it, make calculations and negotiate," he told the business daily.

Sinkevicius said that the proposal, the essence of which is that Lithuania and Estonia acquire stakes and join control in airBaltic, was very preliminary.

According to the paper, it is proposed that Lithuania and Estonia each buy 17 percent stakes in airBaltic and all three Baltic countries hold a combined majority stake of 51 percent.

Sinkevicius was skeptical about whether it would be easy for the three Baltic countries to agree on a sufficient number of direct flights from Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn.

"There are doubts as to whether it we will manage to agree and find consensus, because each country, each capital has its own interests and its own considerations," he told the paper.

Latvian Transport Minister Anrijs Matiss told the press in mid-June that the three Baltic states should have one airline in common and Latvia was ready to sell to Estonia and Lithuania stakes in its airBaltic carrier.

"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.

airBaltic which is 99.8-percent owned by the Latvian state and serves around 60 destinations with direct flights from its home base in Riga.

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