airBaltic hires new consultancy to look for strategic investor

Last fall, Latvia's flag-carrier airline airBaltic hired New York investment bank Greenhill & Co as a consultancy firm to find a new strategic investor for the airline, the Transport Ministry told LSM.

This comes after the company turned down several potential investors offered by its former consultant Lazard Freres.

In 2015 the government tasked the Transport Ministry with finding a strategic investor for airBaltic. Afterwards, "financial investor" Ralf Montag Girmes was found. Girmes bought a 20% share in the airline, while in 2017 Danish businessman Lars Thuesen became an indirect holder of this 20% stake.

airBaltic hired Lazard Freres in late 2016, and in late 2017 former Transport Minister Uldis Augulis said that three companies willing to invest in the airline have been found.

But that came to naught, and in April 2018 the agreement with Lazard Freres came to a close. 

"The investors found back then weren't chosen for a number of reasons, including commercial ones," the Transport Ministry told LSM.

The ministry does not disclose the number of investors explored for the role, claiming an agreement makes this information confidential. It likewise does not disclose how much they paid for the services of Lazard Freres. 

Past September, Greenhill & Co won a tender to become the new consultancy to hunt for an investor for airBaltic. "The investment bank is currently presenting our potential investors with our new business plan, Destination 2025," said the Transport Ministry.

But again, the ministry refrains from providing additional info, such as the time frame in which Greenhill & Co is to find a new investor.

airBaltic's ambitious Destination 2025 plan provides for creating a fleet of up to 80 Airbus A220-300 jets, as opposed to its predecessor, Horizon 2021, which centered on buying 20 new Airbus A220-300 jets.

Current Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits (New Conservative Party) points out that the company needs a strategic investor so that it has necessary support both in the current period of rapid growth and in the future when the economy is to contract.

As a shareholder, the state has only a limited ability to inject capital into the company when it's necessary.

Linkaits is to meet airBaltic management soon to "understand where we're at" as concerns the ongoing search for an investor. 

Transport
Economy