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Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank to become Malév owner

Russian state-owned bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) will take over as a major indirect owner in Hungarian national airline Malév, and Russian airline Aeroflot will become Malév's strategic partner, Hungary's Finance Minister János Veres and Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said at a press conference.

Veres said that the failure of Malév's principal indirect owner, Russian businessman Boris Abramovich, to meet the stipulations contained in the airline's privatization contract had made the takeover by Vnesheconombank, the company's lending bank, necessary.

Boris Abramovich, who also acted as chairman of the board, together with Alexander Abramovich, was recalled from Malév's board by an extraordinary shareholder's meeting held on January 16.

The Hungarian Finance Minister also said that the new construction has been devised to ensure that Malév will remain Hungary's national airline and will not lose its European Union flying rights.

An EU-based investor must hold a majority stake in Malév in order to retain its EU flight permit.

Zubkov said that Vneshekonombank already has plans to revive the struggling Hungarian airline, remarking that “The previous owner's not very assertive styles and the global economic crisis have prompted us to seek a solution and finally put this issue in order.”

Zubkov added that “We have managed to bring in VEB, a new owner, and also found a strategic partner in Aeroflot, Russia's biggest airline.”

According to earlier unconfirmed reports, Vneshekonombank has mortgage rights on a 49% stake Boris Abramovich held in AirBridge, the Hungary-registered company owning Malév. Airbridge purchased Malév when the company was privatized in 2007. The deal was financed by Vneshekonombank which also has been financing Malév's operations. (MTI – Econews)