The protracted saga surrounding the privatisation of flag-carrier Adria Airways appears to be approaching its endgame, the 91.58% publically-owned stake in the airline attracting far greater interest during the second attempt by Slovenia’s government to denationalise one of the fifteen state-owned companies it earmarked than the first, ultimately aborted sale several years ago.

The deadline for receipt of binding bids is notionally set for mid September, precipitated by a July expression of interest announcement which in effect fired the starting gun for a sale widely regarded as long overdue. Despite posting in 2014 a profit for the first time in seven years any publically-owned airline is generally regarded as being a financial drain on the state, one the Slovenian administration is keen to remove from the books before the traditional winter downturn when passengers and income become more scarce. With Adria only owning one of the twelve aircraft it is operating this summer the financial get out of jail card it used last winter which raised the requisite capital to keep the airline viable by selling and leasing back two of its smaller aircraft cannot be relied upon this time around. With a reported six to ten million euros(€) needed to expand the business to a level commensurate with its industry reach and unique geographical position at the frontier between Western Europe and the Balkans, Adria’s management will be just as eager for a sale to be pushed through during the autumn.

One possible scenario, perhaps the most intriguing of all, is the possibility of Adria’s very own pilots mounting a takeover bid of their employer, one whose business model and industrial relations with its rank and file staff has caused some alarm with the Slovenian Union of Pilots. Industrial action instigated by the airline’s cabin crews scheduled for June 1st, traditionally the start of the summer programme, was only narrowly averted although its timing to coincide with the commencement of Adria’s service linking Maribor with London Southend was surely without happenstance. Whether a Delavska hranilnica-funded bid for the carrier will bring Adria’s pilots to the top table is uncertain but with experience in the aviation sector through their majority ownership of Maribor’s Edvard Rusjan Airport, Delavska’s involvement in any successful employee-buyout would add a further feather to the trade union-backed bank’s cap. The smart money does though seem to be on an investment vehicle or hedge fund acquiring a majority stake in Adria, organisations predicated on maximising their investment as expeditiously as possible.

From a personal point of view I hope Adria Airways remains ‘in house’, either through acquisition by an employee-buyout or from another conglomerate or individual from within the country’s borders. It remains possible but highly unlikely that an aviational giant will absorb Adria into its own operation, the ruling that outlaws the ownership of more than 49% of a Slovenian company by an entity from outside the European Union surely putting off the likes of Etihad, Qatar Airways and Emirates.

Further reading on this matter can be found at:

Ex Yugoslav Aviation: sale of Adria Airways imminent