Portugal wants to start TAP's privatisation process soon: finance minister

FILE PHOTO: A TAP Air Portugal Airlines A330 plane taxis at Lisbon's airport

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's finance minister said on Monday the government was doing the required preliminary work to start the privatisation process of state-owned airline TAP at the time the flag-carrier's performance is improving.

Fernando Medina said that TAP, which is under an EU-approved 3.2 billion euros ($3.4 billion) bailout plan, has also already carried out a preliminary study of the market to assess "investment prospects of some potential investors".

"It is exploratory...work but the main conclusion is that, given the very good performance TAP is having, far above the prospects of the restructuring plan, this is a good time to evaluate and decide on the privatisation," he told a news conference in Madrid.

TAP posted a rare net profit in the third quarter of 2022 on strong revenue but said visibility for next year remained low.

"The government is developing the preliminary works necessary to start the privatisation of TAP, which we will do as soon as possible," Medina added

Brussels approved in December 2021 the bailout plan for TAP but imposed a tough restructuring that included downsizing its fleet, cutting more than 2,900 jobs and reducing wages of most workers by up to 25%.

The state now owns 100% of the airline but Prime Minister Antonio Costa said last month the government was considering an outright or partial sale of the business. Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and British Airways owner IAG are potential buyers, according to analysts.

($1 = 0.9301 euros)

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves and Catarina Demony; Editing by Alex Richardson and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)