UTair circles regional carriers

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UTair has flagged an interest in acquiring assets of Russian regional carriers Nordavia and NordStar.

The mining and metals conglomerate Norilsk Nickel has majority shareholdings in both airlines but last month decided to spin them off as non-core activities.

A source at UTair reveals that it has received a proposal from Norilsk and is evaluating the business case for purchasing stakes in Nordavia and NordStar to enhance its operations in the vast Krasnoyarsk region.

Both carriers are focused on passenger services for Norilsk residents who enjoy subsidised fares. "Norilsk Nickel intends to leave subsidies in place. Alongside a steady demand, this makes acquiring Nordavia and NordStar appealing," says the source.

Arkhangelsk-based Nordavia owns nine Boeing 737-500s and has flying rights to 30 domestic and foreign cities. NordStar operates 10 leased 737-800s and seven ATR 42 turboprops on 44 services, including eight cross-border routes.

In 2012, UTair took over Krasnoyarsk-based turboprop operator Katekavia, complementing its locally based subsidiary which provides helicopter services.