LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa welcomed the interest expressed by Lufthansa in the upcoming privatisation of flag carrier TAP, but promised a level playing field and a transparent process for all contenders.
Speaking to reporters alongside visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Costa said the government will "shortly start TAP's privatisation and several companies have expressed interest, one of them Lufthansa".
Added Scholz: "My impression is that something does fit well together here, but let us see how it turns out."
Reuters reported on Thursday that Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and British Airways owner IAG were laying the groundwork for potential bids for TAP, sounding out local communications agencies and legal advisers.
Lufthansa's original interest in TAP dates back to before the COVID-19 pandemic, and Scholz said "there are reasons why Lufthansa had previously been interested".
The Portuguese state owns 100% of TAP, which is currently restructuring under a Brussels-approved 3.2 billion euro ($3.5 billion) rescue plan, and the government is considering an outright or partial sale of the airline.
"We have to ensure a transparent process where everyone starts from the same equal position, but Lufthansa is very welcome, it is a great airline and has a complementary strategy," Costa said.
"Then the negotiation process will allow us to select who arrives first at the finish line," he added.
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves, Andreas Rinke and Catarina Demony; editing by Andrei Khalip and Sandra Maler)