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Neeleman's Gateway to buy TAP Portugal
TAP Portugal, the Portuguese flag carrier, is finally being sold — to a company in the Americas.
The Portuguese government announced its sale on Thursday to Gateway, a group made up of DGN Corporation and Grupo Barraqueiro. David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue and Azul, leads DGN, while Grupo Barraqueiro is a Brazilian bus operator. Gateway's bid won them 61% of TAP Portugal. Germán Efromovich, the owner of Avianca, had also bid. Another 5% owned by the government went to the airline's employees. The 34% remaining will stay with the government.
Gateway will pay between $398 million and $550 million to gain control of TAP. The company will have to buy 53 aircraft for the carrier, and must be based in Portugal for at least 10 years while keeping its main hub in Lisbon for at least 30. TAP Portugal will remain separate from Azul for legal reasons, but Neeleman said he will create an alliance so they can work together.
However, TAP isn't a moneymaker. Other than its position as the top airline between Portugal and Brazil, it's not too attractive. The airline reported a loss of $95.8 million in 2014 and reported a total debt of almost $1.2 billion. Strikes cost the carrier more than $39 million earlier this year.
The European Commission still has to approve the sale.
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