Latvia's Ventbunkers makes surprise offer to invest in airBaltic

By bne IntelliNews December 15, 2015

Latvian oil product terminal operator Ventbunkers has reportedly offered to invest in the country’s troubled flag carrier airBaltic, local media reported on December 15.

The offer is a somewhat surprising development in the context of AirBaltic having secured in early November an investor from Germany after a heated political debate. The Latvian government said it was looking at Ventbunkers’ proposal to see “what exactly the company was proposing,” according to Leta.

Eva Cinina, chairwoman of Ventbunkers, said the company is ready to look at new sectors on the back of recent success. However, she declined to state whether the proposal matches the €52mn investment agreed by the Latvian government with German investor Ralf Dieter Montag-Girmes on November 3.

According to firmas.lv, Ventbunkers turnover in 2014 totaled €54mn, producing a net profit of €16.9mn. However, the company's subsidiary LNT recently sold a 43.25% stake in oil terminal operator Ventspils Nafta in a controversial deal to Vitol for €80mn.

The offer from Montag-Girmes, which accompanies a government loan of €80mn to airBaltic is reportedly due to be signed this week. The combined sum of over €130mn was pushed past apparent objections from some ministers as the government seeks to stave off financial difficulties at the flag carrier. It also wants to help airBaltic expand to cover neighbouring Baltic states; a plan Riga has pursued for years, withthe airline now the region’s only surviving flag carrier.

According to local press, the transport ministry was told of the competing offer by Ventbunkers late on December 14. Officials are now reported to be studying the pitch.

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