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Portugal postpones state airline privatization

Thursday - 12/20/2012, 2:39pm  ET

LISBON, Portugal (AP) -- The Portuguese government announced Thursday it has postponed the privatization of national airline TAP Air Portugal after the sole bidder failed to provide required financial guarantees.

The government said that Brazil-based Synergy Aerospace offered to pay EUR35 million ($46.5 million) for TAP, invest EUR316 million in the company and take on the flag carrier's estimated EUR1.2 billion debt.

Secretary of state for the treasury Maria Teresa Albuquerque said Synergy didn't produce the necessary bank guarantees, however.

She said the government still intends to sell TAP at a later date and after a re-evaluation of the privatization process.

TAP recorded losses of EUR76.8 million in 2011, when it carried 9.75 million passengers. In 2010, TAP posted a loss of EUR57 million.

The outcome was a setback for the government, which is selling off state companies as one of the conditions of last year's EUR78 billion bailout. The privatization revenue helps pay off public debt, which is forecast to reach almost 120 percent of gross domestic product this year.

The government is set to announce next week the result of the privatization of national airport management company ANA. Four suitors -- Argentina's Corporacion America and three European rivals -- have tabled offers, with the government hoping to raise at least EUR2.5 billion.

Earlier this year the government sold power company Energias de Portugal and power grid operator REN to Chinese companies for a combined total of EUR3.3 billion.

On the block next year, the government says, will be national mail company CTT, waste treatment company EGF, the national rail cargo operator, and possibly one of state broadcaster RTP's two main channels.

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