The American businessman David Neelman broke his silence and came to defend himself in front of the news about the contract for the renewal of the fleet of Airbus aircraft that will have damaged TAP by 400 million euros. In an opinion piece published this Friday in the weekly Expresso, the former shareholder of TAP – who won the privatization of the company in 2015 with the consortium Atlantic Gateway – denies that it has harmed the company and ensures that both the PSD and PS governments were aware of the terms of the deal.
“At the beginning of 2015, the Portuguese government contacted me to invite me to apply for privatization. I did not know Portugal, and after analyzing TAP, we quickly came to the conclusion that it was in a financial state of absolute emergency: it was a company in bankrupt, completely undercapitalized, without cash and at risk of not being able to pay wages,” the businessman begins to explain in the article entitled “Buying like hair of a dog when TAP had no hair?”.
Despite this scenario, to prove the “commitment” to the privatization process, the administrator and his partner, Humberto Pedrosa, through Atlantic Gateway, “accepted to pay, with their own funds, the price of 10 million euros for the 61 % of the capital. social network of TAP”. “In addition, we both contributed 15 million euros in ancillary benefits for TAP,” he defends.
The manager ensures that everyone involved knows about the business. “The Strategic Project proposed by the Gateway consortium, including part of the capitalization with Airbus capital and fleet renewal, was presented in detail, explained, discussed and approved by all stakeholders in the privatization process, both in the sale negotiation phase. as later, when the partial reversal of privatization carried out by the Socialist Government, which agreed to be bound by our Strategic Plan, as a shareholder”.
Neeleman takes advantage of the publication to leave a message to the Executive: “In addition to all this, we managed to secure a loan from Azul on very favorable terms for TAP, amounting to 90 million euros, only with amortization and interest. I remind you that this loan does not has yet to be repaid and that one of the conditions the government demanded for my exit from TAP was that such a loan could no longer be converted into equity, which Azul accepted.”
“In 2015 TAP was worth zero euros”
Returning to the business of renewing the aircraft fleet, he argues that “It is completely absurd to say that the TAP shares were bought with Airbus funds or with TAP’s future cash flows.” This is because, according to his position, “in 2015 TAP was worth 0 (zero) euros or, to be more clear, it had a negative value, up to minus four hundred million euros, as some estimates made in the company testify. , in the preparation of the privatization, by international auditors (Deloitte and PWC) at the request of the Government”.
As mentioned, the purchase of 61% of TAP by Atlantic Gateway, in the 2015 privatization, involved a capitalization of the company at €226.75 million. Money the company owned by David Neeleman and Humberto Pedrosa received directly from Airbus in exchange for a lease agreement for 53 planes from the European manufacturer, which lawyers say forced the airline to pay its own capitalization, in violation of the Commercial Companies Code. According to an analysis by Irish consultancy Airborne, requested by TAP and delivered on 10 August 2022 and reported by ECO, the cost charged to the Portuguese carrier for the aircraft exceeds by 254 million what competitors pay for the same models.
Now, according to David Neeleman, “the negotiation with Airbus was complex, but successful, because of my aviation knowledge and the confidence I placed in our Strategic Project, management team and business history.” And in this context “they proceeded with the proposal to acquire 53 new Airbus NEO aircraft (new generation and in which we managed to make TAP the first airline in the world to receive these planes), which would allow — and did allow — the TAP to greater energy efficiency, expand into new markets and be competitive.”
“We were very clear that TAP’s previous order to Airbus — which was for 12 Airbus A350s — would not be compatible with the Strategic Project presented, as they were larger, less efficient and insufficient for the needs of a new TAP,” details the same article.
Finally, the administrator takes the opportunity to criticize the decision of António Costa’s government to reverse the privatization of the company. A decision that he says was made for “ideological reasons”. “The Portuguese state, faced with the unprecedented effects of the pandemic, has decided to subject TAP to a very tough rescue and restructuring plan.
“After the huge capitalization by the Portuguese state and the significant reduction in wages that continue to punish TAP workers, I hope that the company will definitely succeed in being privatized,” he concludes.