Last Update: at 21:22

Czech Republic

Will Smartwings be nationalized?

Should the state get involved in Smartwings and CSA Czech Airlines? Or even take over the airlines entirely? A heated debate has broken out in the Czech Republic.

The head of government is officially staying out of it. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš does not want to get involved in a debate about the state’s entry into the Smartwings group, as he is acquainted with its largest shareholders Jiří Šimáně and Jaromír Šmejkal.

The idea of nationalization of the air carrier has been brought up for discussion by the Minister of Transportation Karel Havlíček. He said that a complete takeover of the air carrier is a possibility. He considers the group, which includes the airlines Smartwings and CSA Czech Airlines, to be systemically relevant.

Smartwings wants loans instead of entry

If the company is not rescued in the Corona crisis, not only will Prague Airport lose its largest customer, but several smaller airports will also face difficulties, the Minister of Transport argued. Havlíček stressed that the state has the possibility to sell Smartwings again after the crisis. In response to the proposal of the Minister of Transport, the first thing that came out was that Smartwings was open to any help and that Finance Minister Alena Schillerova supported Havlíčeks idea.

Shortly afterwards, however, Smartwings declared that they would refuse a state entry and would only wish for help in the form of loans or loan guarantees. The Minister of Finance also suddenly opposed a 100 percent participation of the state. Only the takeover of a share was an option.

CSA flies international routes again

Schillerova explained that in any case, one must first examine the economic figures of the company, which is already suffering from the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max. In addition, the question was how the Chinese shareholder would react. The Smartwings Group belongs by 50.1 percent to the Unimex Group of entrepreneurs Šimáně and Šmejkal and by 49.9 percent to the state-owned Chinese investment company Citic, which has not yet expressed its opinion.

Meanwhile, CSA resumed international flights on Monday (May 18). They go from Prague to Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. Stockholm will be added on May 21, and Bucharest on May 25.

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