* Newspaper reports Air France-KLM among three interested
* LOT CEO says 22 possible bidders contacted
* Process in early stages
(Recasts with ministry and CEO comments, adds details)
By Chris Borowski and Agnieszka Barteczko
WARSAW, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Three groups have expressed interest in buying Poland’s troubled flag carrier LOT [LOT.UL], which one local paper said included Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA).
A spokesman for the treasury ministry, which oversees state assets, said on Wednesday three potential investors had confirmed early interest, but did not elaborate.
Without citing sources, Polish daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna reported the groups included two financial investors and French-Dutch carrier Air France-KLM, which recently snapped up control of Alitalia.
The paper’s list did not include Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), a leader of the Star Alliance that also includes LOT, in which the German carrier had expressed some interest in the past. Lufthansa, which has been battling Air France-KLM for the No.1 spot in Europe, agreed in 2008 to buy smaller rivals including Brussels Airlines, Austrian Airlines (AUA) AUAV.VI and Britain’s bmi [BMID.UL].
LOT has struggled recently due to high costs and competition from airlines such as Ryanair (RYA.I) entering its home market. It reported a record loss of 733 million zlotys ($260 million) in 2008 and expects another deficit in 2009 after a 178 million shortfall in the first half.
LOT Chief Executive Sebastian Mikosz said it was too soon to discuss interest in the airline’s privatisation attempt as it’s just beginning to see possible interest after its adviser, Morgan Stanley, sent out 22 “teaser” offers.
(Additional reporting by Patryk Wasilewski in Warsaw and Matthis Blamont in Paris; Editing by Sharon Lindores)
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