PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech government will decide on the privatization of Czech Airlines (CSA) as early as April next year after weighing possible bids from Korean Air (003490.KS) and Qatar Airways.
The state is in early talks with the two airline groups, and expects tentative bids by the end of January and offers for the loss-making Czech airline a month later.
"Talks are taking place, and if these talks are successful, then the government could decide on its privatization sometime in April or May," Prime Minister Petr Necas said after a cabinet meeting.
Necas confirmed an earlier Reuters report that the two airlines had expressed interest in the carrier. The Finance Ministry had reached out to around 50 airline companies at the start of the sale process.
The government tried to privatize the airline in 2009, following heavy losses from a failed expansion plan.
But that fell through after the sole bidder, Czech charter airline Travel Service, refused to buy the state airline without securing a capital injection from the government.
Czech Airlines, a member of the Sky Team alliance which also includes Delta (DAL.N) and Air France (AIRF.PA), has had to cut back its fleet and services to avoid collapse. It lost 241 million crowns ($12.49 million) last year.
The company is owned by state holding group Cesky Aeroholding, which also operates Prague Airport.
In September, the EU Commission gave approval for 100 million euros in state aid granted to Czech Airlines.
The Commission said the company's restructuring plan was sufficient to address its financial problems.
(Reporting by Robert Mueller; Writing by Jason Hovet, editing by William Hardy and Mike Nesbit)