Air France will formally register its interest in Czech Airlines' privatisation today, eyeing potential central and eastern European network gains.

Today marks the cut-off for expressions of interest in the privatisation, which was launched last month by the Czech finance ministry. It has placed just over 91% of the Czech SkyTeam member up for tender and is aiming to reveal the winning bidder by no later than 30 September.

 ©CSA Czech Airlines

Air France says: "Air France-KLM today will be submitting a non-binding expression of interest in order to access the airline's data room.

"Czech Airlines is a close partner of Air France-KLM, particularly in the SkyTeam Alliance, of which it has been a member since 2001. Its network is highly complementary to that of Air France-KLM. Among other things, it would enable the group to strengthen its position in central and eastern Europe."

Air France adds that the Czech finance ministry is not expecting any binding offers until June, allowing time for due diligence.

"This process reflects the broader view of Air France-KLM on the air transport industry, as the group has very often expressed its intention to take part in the necessary consolidation of the sector," says the French SkyTeam member.

When it detailed the tender, the Czech finance ministry said the winning bidder will have to maintain Czech Airlines' core air transport operations, its safety and security standards, as well as a domestic base at Prague Airport for a minimum period of five years after the takeover.

Last year Czech Airlines delivered a pre-tax profit of Kc500 million ($23.4 million), Kc389 million up on 2007, maintaining its revenues at Kc23.24 billion.

Aeroflot has tentatively expressed an interest in Czech Airlines, although last month the Russian carrier said it was seeking a Czech partner to participate in the process.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news