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Czech gov’t starts airline sale, looks for adviser

Czech government launched the sale of flagship airline CSA on Wednesday by announcing a tender for a privatization adviser.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said the tender for the adviser would start on April 15, and the winner would then recommend a timetable and a method of the sale. “After an adviser is chosen and presents us a document (on how to proceed), we hope to finish the privatization within months,” Topolanek said after a government meeting. A study from consultants Deloitte Advisory recommended a sale to a strategic investor in a tender, the government said on its Web site. Topolanek did not give any estimate of the expected revenue, but analysts have said the state could raise around 5 billion koruna ($312.1 million) for its 91.5% stake.

The airline has gone through a restructuring program to recover from three years of losses after a costly expansion of its fleet, and agreed to sell its cargo and catering divisions. The firm reported a net profit of 111 million koruna last year after a loss of 396 million in 2006, based on Czech accounting standards. It expects a net profit of 391 million koruna in 2008. CSA, a member of the Skyteam alliance which also includes Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines and Alitalia, operates a fleet of around 50, mostly mid-range planes.

The Czech government also plans to start the privatization of Prague’s main airport, Letiste Praha, expected to bring in of up to 100 billion koruna ($6.2 billion). The cabinet should discuss the sale within two to three weeks, a spokesman for the finance ministry said. (Reuters)