Ministry reveals Chinese interest in airBaltic investment

The State Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, Kaspars Ozoliņš told Latvian Radio Monday that Chinese investors have expressed interest in investing in the national flag carrier airline airBaltic.

Ozoliņš said that talks about the matter took place when preparing the historic Memorandum for Understanding, an agreement for transport cooperation between Latvia and the Chengdu municipality, in September. 

"Yes, we have talked it over, and they are interested in this. We have separated it into several stages. The first would be strengthening bilateral cooperation, which is organizing direct flights," the State Secretary said.

"Afterwards, if we see that the cooperation has been fruitful and we consider one another a business partner and we can cooperate, the next step could be analyzing the chances for investment in our airline. They know very well what our situation is, they see, they understand and it's interesting to them," said Ozoliņš.

Ozoliņš revealed that the interested company owns several aircraft factories.

He also said that direct flights are to be opened between the Chengdu municipality and Rīga in spring 2016 at earliest and autumn 2016 at latest. 

Ozoliņš stressed that Latvia is in a geographically favorable position for making deliveries to Scandinavia, and that Latvia is prepared not only to transport, but also to store, sort and label the products sent from China.

Previously, Prudentia, the company responsible for attracting investments for airBaltic, announced that an investor from Western Europe has been found and was prepared to invest €50m into Latvia's national airline.

The announcement by Prudentia about having found an investor for airBaltic made Anrijs Matīss (Unity) furious, while the company denied that it has violated any confidentiality clauses, saying that the Ministry of Transport has to be more active if it is to find an investor - otherwise, it may face trouble paying for a Bombardier fleet this October. The state ceased cooperation with Prudentia after the information leak. 

The Ministry of Transport had inserted ads in the Financial Times of Europe and the UK in 2012, offering investment in the company. The Latvian government offers buying up to 50% minus one share. Prudentia is consulting the state about airBaltic since 2010.

It is far from the first time Chinese companies have been linked to an interest in airBaltic.

airBaltic serves over 60 destinations from its home base in Riga.

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