Infortar, an investment company associated with Tallink, could buy out the entire national carrier, not just become a major shareholder, said Ahti Kuningas, the chairman of Estonian Air's supervisory board.
“Today we have said that the private-sector investor should own more than half of the shares, meaning it has the majority and the right to make decisions, but the precise percentage depends on the government's decision,” Kuningas told ERR radio today.
He said the state decided that the company should be in private hands already when buying it from SAS, and it has been searching for a buyer since 2010, talking to four or five interested parties.
Ain Hanschmidt, the head of Infortar, said Estonian Air has done well in the past two years, the brand and image have improved and the company has become more efficient. “If we continue with that strategy, we may be able to achieve a profit,” he said.
Tallink and Estonian Air could cooperate in the region, offering, for example, ferry trips to Stockholm, with a flight back, Hanschmidt said.
He said Infortar is interested in owning 100 percent of the shares, as it is a complicated company and decisions need to be taken fast; so, the fewer shareholders there are the better.
According to the restructuring plan that will be submitted to the European Commission on Friday, Infortar is set to become the majority shareholder of Estonian Air, the company announced today.
Infortar owns 36 percent of Tallink Group, the international ferry operator. Infortar in turn is owned by Hanschmidt, who sits on the supervisory board of Tallink, and Enn Pant, the CEO of Tallink.
Estonian Air has seen its fair share of troubles in recent years, from public uproar for paying a CEO monthly salary of 30,000 euros, to conflict with its pilots. The issues culminated with the carrier being very close to bankruptcy at one point, it was only saved by a government loan and restructuring aid.