Lufthansa is reportedly engaged in negotiations to acquire a 45% stake in the airline TAP Air Portugal held by David Neeleman, its main private shareholder. To do so, the German carrier is said to have allied with United Airlines.

The local business newspaper Jornal de Negocios reports that David Neeleman is actively trying to sell his half of Atlantic Gateway, a private consortium he formed five years ago with Humberto Pedrosa. Atlantic Gateway holds a 45% stake into TAP Air Portugal, with the rest being owned at 50% by the Portuguese State and at 5% by the employees. It is unclear if Pedrosa is also participating in the divestment negotiations.

In November 2019, the same media already claimed that Neeleman was in talks with Lufthansa, United, Air France-KLM, and IAG – information the businessman denied.

Neeleman, who was also involved in the now-defunct Aigle Azur, and the Portuguese government have had dissensions in the past regarding the management of TAP Air Portugal. The airline reported a €105.6 million loss in 2019, on top of a €118 million loss in 2018. 

In addition to the poor economic performance, Neeleman’s project for a stock market launch was dismissed. His decision to award €1.17 million in performance bonuses to the managers last year was received badly and the state warned against doing the same in 2020. 

TAP Air Portugal, Lufthansa, and United Airlines are all members of the Star Alliance. With its investment in the Portuguese carrier, Lufthansa would secure routes towards South America, mainly Brazil. 

The region has caught the interest of several other airline alliances in the past few months. In September 2019, Delta Air Lines (SkyTeam) invested in the South American group LATAM. Meanwhile, IAG (Oneworld) is in the process of acquiring the Spanish airline Air Europa, whose network also includes Latin America.