An amendment mandating the release of HUF 19 billion (EUR 70.48 million) of public debt was included in the 2010 budget to give the state the option of regaining a stake in Hungarian flag carrier Malév, Finance Minister Péter Oszkó admitted last Thursday.
Though news portal index.hu had earlier suggested that the state would only become a minority owner in exchange for the debt relief, Oszkó told state television channel Duna TV that Hungarian taxpayers may get a majority stake in the debt-ridden airline.
Oszkó emphasised that the government is not going to pay money for ownership rights, but rather drop Malév’s debt. “It is unlikely that the state would get its money back, but after strategic restructuring the airline could become profitable,” the finance minister said, adding that negotiations on the specifics of the deal are ongoing.
With a hypothetical majority ownership in exchange for the public debt, the Hungarian state is in effect valuing Malév at tens of billions of forints. Since the airline was sold for HUF 200 million (EUR 741,000) around three years ago Malév has amassed estimated debts of around HUF 70 billion (EUR 259.53 million).
The value of the airline and exact percentages of the future ownership structure may end up being minor issues for the state and Malév, as it is unlikely that the airline’s competitors will not seek the help of Brussels to disallow the possibly illegal “state subsidy”, The Budapest Times reported.