Communists suggest partial nationalization of MIA to save Air Malta

Communist Party of Malta call on government to buy shares in Malta International Airport, suggests setting up of subsidiary companies to save Air Malta

The Communist Party of Malta has come out against the proposed partial privatization of Air Malta, suggesting instead that the government should purchase the majority shareholders of the Malta International Airport or set up new subsidiary companies to help the ailing finances of Malta’s national airline.

In a statement, the party said that ever since the privatization of the Malta International Airport in 2002, Air Malta’s revenues suffered a “massive loss.”

“The government should consider buying 40% of the total shares of Malta International Airport, a fully privatised entity,” it said.

Malta International Airport plc, a public limited company whose shares may be freely sold and traded to the public, manages the airport under a 65-year agreement. The government currently owns 20% of the shares, with the Malta Mediterranean Link Consortium Limited holding a 40% interest in MIA.

VIE (Malta) Limited holds a 10.1% shareholding in Malta International Airport, while 29.9% of the company’s shares are publicly listed.

The Communist Party’s comments were made after it was revealed that the government’s plans to sell a 49% minority stake in Air Malta to Italian airline Air Malta could be shelved by the Prime Minister as there are serious doubts on whether it will benefit the country and airline’s employees.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has insisted that should an agreement not be reached, the government has a number of fallback options that it would be consider.

Air Malta has been undergoing a restructuring process costing some €230 million ever since it was given the green light for state aid under strict European Commission rules.

With low cost giant Ryanair close to taking the majority market share of the incoming passenger market to Malta and Air Malta’s financial sustainability in serious doubt, the part-privatisation of Air Malta is a priority for Muscat’s government.

Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party has proposed that Malta’s national airline Air Malta be floated on the stock market after its liabilities are absorbed by taxpayers, and introduces private institutional shareholders to prop up the ailing airline.

However, in a statement on Sunday, the Communist Party dismissed both plans, arguing that the selling of Air Malta’s shares was not the answer.

The Communist Party of Malta appeals to Parliament to not push forward with the part-privatisation of Air Malta, whether it is to a foreign company or to local businessmen. The government should safeguard the country’s state-owned assets,” it said.

“Other measures should be found in this regard, such as the setting up of a ‘public’ company to register part of the present workforce under this new company.  Government should also consider opening up of new subsidiary companies in the tourism sector that will be connected to the mother company Air Malta, so to assist financially the national airline,” the party said.