Portugal has named Synergy Aerospace, owned by Brazilian airline entrepreneur German Efromovich, as the sole potential buyer of its struggling national carrier TAP.
The sale of TAP, which is weighed down with an estimated EUR€1.2 billion debt, is part of a disposal of state assets required under Portugal's EUR€78 billion EU/IMF bailout.
Through Synergy, Efromovich controls AviancaTaca, as well as the separately-operated Avianca Brazil. The AviancaTaca group has more than 100 routes in 14 countries.
State Secretary for Transport and Public Works Sergio Monteiro said Portugal would work on a binding bid with Synergy. The government hopes to seal a deal by the end of the year and complete it in the first quarter of 2013.
Monteiro said 10 companies showed interest in the selloff, but did not name them. Previously, British Airways' owner International Airlines Group and Germany's Lufthansa had expressed interest.
Efromovich's aggressive growth plans in Latin America have piled pressure on Brazil's two biggest carriers, Gol and the TAM unit of regional group LAT Airlines.
Analysts say TAP's routes to Brazil -- Latin America's largest country and a former Portuguese colony -- are its key selling point.
TAP, with a fleet of 55 Airbus aircraft, carried 9 million passengers last year.
Experts believe TAP's sale is unlikely to generate much new cash for the state as the proceeds would have to pay off its debts.
Portugal is also preparing to sell its ANA airport handling company by year-end.