IAG International Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer Luis Gallego says the group remains open to further acquisitions but would not be drawn into commenting on its alleged interest in the planned semi-privatisation of TAP Air Portugal (TP, Lisbon).

“I will not talk in particular on TAP, but we explore all options that will make the group stronger,” he said during the company’s full-year results earnings call on February 24, 2023.

In January, Portugal’s Economy Minister António Costa e Silva told Spanish newspaper El Economista that IAG would be amongst the government’s top choices for the semi-privatisation of TAP due to its ownership of Iberia (IB, Madrid Barajas), which already has connections to Portugal’s three main gateways, Lisbon, Porto and Faro.

An IAG spokesperson previously told ch-aviation that “we never comment on rumour or speculation”.

The Portuguese government looks to re-privatise at least half of TAP's share capital and reportedly has begun discreet discussions with Air France-KLM, Lufthansa Group, and IAG, all three of which have declined to comment.

Gallego’s comment follows IAG’s February 23, 2023, agreement to acquire the remaining 80% of the share capital of Spain's Air Europa (UX, Palma de Mallorca) from Globalia that it had not previously owned. The EUR400 million euros (USD423.8 million) deal is still subject to regulatory and banking approvals expected to take about 18 months. “This acquisition will enable us to grow Madrid Barajas (Spain) as a hub, offering a gateway to Latin America and beyond, with benefits for customers, employees and shareholders, Gallego said.

IAG already paid EUR100 million (USD106 million) in August 2022 for 20% of the airline to parent Globalia, a Spanish tourism group. On the successful completion of the current transaction, IAG will pay another EUR100 million in cash to Globalia for 54,064,575 ordinary shares in the airline. A further EUR100 million will be paid on both the first and second anniversary of completion. In addition, the Group has agreed to pay a break fee to Globalia of EUR50 million (USD53 million) should the relevant approvals not be forthcoming within 24 months of entering into the agreement; or IAG terminates the deal at any time before completion.

The total EUR500 million (USD533 million) price tag is half of the EUR1 billion IAG previously offered to pay for Air Europa in November 2019 before it dropped its plans due to the Covid-19 crisis. In June 2021, the European Commission opened an in-depth investigation to assess the proposed acquisition of Air Europa by IAG, under EU merger regulations. It expressed concern that the proposed transaction could reduce competition on Spanish domestic routes and international routes to and from Spain.