Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos has confirmed that the potential sale of Portugal's state-owned airline TAP to Colombia's Avianca is part of his agenda during an official visit to Portugal tomorrow.
Santos told reporters in Bogota that "one of the goals of his visit to Portugal is to contribute to close the acquisition of TAP by [Colombia's largest airline] Avianca".
"This will strengthen our Colombian airline and will help [it] to offer a more globalised service," he said, adding that Avianca's acquisition offer for TAP is another sign that Colombia's economy is maturing and that it's no longer a one-way relationship "under which only the Europeans came to acquire Latin American companies".
Avianca is the last remaining candidate to acquire TAP, which has been put up for sale as part of the privatisation of Portuguese public companies imposed by the European Union.
Although EU foreign ownership hurdles may still need to be dealt with, the Portuguese government is unlikely to reject a buyer for TAP. "Colombia has liberal aviation policies and a very favourable business environment for European companies. From what I have heard, we have the full support of Brussels for this operation, if it gets through," says a source at the Portuguese Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Telecommunications.
German Efromovich, the Bolivian-born energy sector entrepreneur of Polish descent, acquired Avianca out of chapter 11 bankruptcy administration almost a decade ago for $69 million and has since then forged Latin America's second largest aviation group, second only to LATAM. After its merger with Taca, it is the market leader in Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and owns airlines in Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.
The group is currently unifying all its airlines under the Avianca brand. However, there is no indication yet if TAP would be rebranded to Avianca if it is acquired.
Both Avianca and TAP are members of Star Alliance.