LISBON, July 3 (Xinhua) -- The Portuguese government on Thursday announced its decision to increase its stake in the national airliner Air Portugal (TAP) from 50 percent to 72.5 percent to retain the company's financial control.
"In order to avoid the collapse of the company, the government opted to reach an agreement with private shareholders to buy part of its position for 55 million euros (61.84 million U.S. dollars)," Finance Minister Joao Leao said at a press conference.
The European Commission's approval of a lending in the amount of 1.2 billion euros (1.36 billion U.S. dollars) to TAP is "to unblock financial aid for TAP and avoid the bankruptcy of an essential company for the country," he said.
"This is a very important investment for TAP," which "must be managed with a sense of responsibility and rigor," Leao said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Pedro Nuno Santos said that after weeks of negotiations, "the state will have the conditions that will allow it to assist TAP."
The current CEO of TAP Antonoaldo Neves will be replaced "immediately," Santos said, adding that the government will choose a company to find "a qualified team to manage TAP in the international market."
"It was a good solution for TAP, that was always our goal and now we will start a more challenging phase for the airline," Santos added.
According to the minister, TAP needs "qualified management" and "qualified managers with competence in the aviation area."
Since 2016, the state has held 50 percent of TAP, a result of negotiations by the government with the Gateway consortium (of Humberto Pedrosa and David Neeleman), which took 45 percent of the carrier's capital. The remaining 5 percent is in the hands of the workers.
TAP has been virtually paralyzed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.