"Today begins the formalisation of the process of divestment of Azores Airlines. The announcement was sent to the Official Journal, the Diário da República and the Jornal das Comunidades (Official Gazette) thus beginning 90 days for the submission of proposals", announced the Secretary of Finance of the Azorean executive (PSD/CDS-PP/PPM).
Duarte Freitas spoke today at a press conference held at the headquarters of the Secretariat of Finance in Ponta Delgada, accompanied by the Regional Secretary for Tourism, Mobility and Infrastructure, Berta Cabral, and the president of SATA Holding, Luís Rodrigues.
The governor said that the jury will be chaired by the former Minister of Economy and university professor Augusto Mateus, and is also composed of José Alves (appointed by the Order of Statutory Auditors) and Rui Medeiros (co-opted by both).
"Until June 20, those interested in the acquisition of Azores Airlines will be able to do their due diligence and consult all the information about the process and present their proposals," he said, since the 90 days are counted from the moment of submission of the announcement.
The Secretary of Finance, Planning and Public Administration said that the plan for the prevention of risks and corruption is prepared, considering that the opening of the tender represents "another decisive step to save SATA".
Duarte Freitas rejected that the process is hampered by the political situation in the region and by the changes in the management of SATA Holding, which will be led by Teresa Mafalda Gonçalves, after the departure of Luís Rodrigues to TAP.
"The political situation in the region does not affect this process at all. It is continually being directed with superior transparency and competence. It is for all these reasons that it is essential for the government to ensure stability and the achievement of its purposes," he said.
On the concerns expressed by officials about the specifications (which prevents redundancies for 30 months), the regional secretary recalled that the process had a "very large dialogue with workers' representatives", which resulted in "substantive changes" from the preliminary proposal to the proposed specifications.
Duarte Freitas also detailed that the future of Azores Airlines' liabilities will "depend on what potential buyers are able to pay", and that this situation will be "resolved in the negotiation with the jury and potential interested parties."
"We had a set of contacts until the end of last year from potential stakeholders. As of the beginning of this year, these potential interested parties are all referred to the tender process. In the context of the tender process, we will not intervene," he said.
On March 7, the Government of the Azores revealed that the specifications for the privatisation of Azores Airlines provide for a sale of "at least" 51% and a "maximum" of 85% of the company's share capital.
In June, the European Commission approved Portuguese state aid to support the restructuring of the airline of 453.25 million euros in loans and state guarantees, providing for 'remedies' such as a reorganisation of the structure and the divestment of a controlling stake (51%) in Azores Airlines, the SATA group company responsible for connections with the outside of the archipelago.
Divestment of Azores Airlines
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