Turkish Airlines in talks to acquire Polish carrier

Turkish Airlines in talks to acquire Polish carrier

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Airlines in talks to acquire Polish carrier

Poland’s LOT, operates a fleet of 36 planes which fly to 55 different destinations across the world including North America and the Middle East. Hürriyet photo

Turkish Airlines, the country’s flagship carrier, is to start talks to acquire LOT Polish Airlines, THY Chairman Hamdi Topçu told CNN Türk on Jan. 21.

It is difficult to buy out an airline that belongs to a state, but Polish officials are willing to privatize the firm despite some resistance among the Polish public, Topçu said.

“Many airlines have proposed partnerships with us. We have decided on LOT Airlines after analyzing [the offers]. The official negotiations will start as soon as possible,” he said.

“Turkish Airlines has grown three to four times more than the world average for the aviation industry. [Turkish Airlines] has both made investments and maintained profitability. Some 13-14 airlines firms have made an offer, saying, ‘Acquire us.’” Such offers were made during inter-governmental talks, said Topçu, adding that THY’s decision was based on a “win-win” approach.

The Polish economy minister said in December 2011 that LOT would be privatized and that he had wanted Turkish Airlines to acquire it, Topçu said. For the first time, a European airline will take Turkish Airlines as a model if the acquisition is finalized, he added.

The news comes after Turkish Airlines agreed to a partnership late last month with Ukraine’s AeroSvit Airlines that will provide mutual flights between Istanbul and several Ukrainian cities, underscoring THY’s growing interest in Eastern Europe.

The flagship carrier has also begun a new strategy in the Balkans in a bid to gain a share of the flight market between the United States and Southeastern Europe. The airline will fly from the U.S. to the Balkans via Istanbul starting this summer, Mehmet Başpınar, Turkish Airlines’ deputy marketing chairman, said Jan. 20.

Turkish Airlines owns 49 percent of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Airlines. The carrier is also interested in acquiring Serbia’s JAT and other airlines’ in the Balkans, Turkish Airlines General Manager Temel Kotil said last year, according to local news media.

Turkish Airlines carried 32.6 million passengers in 2011, according to Anatolia news agency data.

LOT posting losses

LOT was founded in 1929 and currently operates a fleet of 36 planes. LOT flies to 55 different destinations including Chicago, New York, Toronto in North America, as well as flight points in Europe and the Middle East.

LOT is a member of Star Alliance, a global airline network consisting of 27 firms, including Turkish Airlines. The Polish government owns 68 percent of the air carrier.

The airline registered a loss of $17 million in 2010, leading the government to adopt a course of action to privatize the loss-making firm.

“Our purpose is to grow both Turkish Airlines and the airlines that Turkish Airlines will partner with,” Topçu said.

Newcomers on board

Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines’ board has announced the appointment of Ahmet Bolat as vice general manager responsible for investments and technology and Abdullah Soner Akkurt as vice general manager responsible for trade, according a company press release.

Bolat started working for Turkish Airlines as president of the investment management department in 2004. He had been a member of board of the Sun Express Airlines since June 2011.

Bolat studied industrial engineering at Istanbul Technical University and obtained masters and doctoral degrees at Stanford University.

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