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Aeroflot and Serbia's JAT Airways signed Friday a memorandum of understanding in Sochi
Russia's flagship carrier Aeroflot [RTS: AFLT] and Serbia's JAT Airways signed Friday a memorandum of understanding in Sochi, which is hosting an international transport forum. Aeroflot said it was interested in taking part in JAT's privatization which would make it a transnational Balkan air carrier. Last week the Russian airline said it would make a decision on the purchase of a 39% stake in Italy's struggling carrier Alitalia by June 15. "They offered to keep the entire workforce, to pay off the debts and to buy new planes in order to make JAT one of the leading companies in southeastern Europe," Serbian Minister of Infrastructure Velimir Ilic told the Belgrade-based daily Vecernje Novosti May 25. A source close to the negotiations said Aeroflot is set to buy 75% in the Serbian air carrier against the backdrop of U.S. interest in JAT. Alexander Kanishchev, Aeroflot deputy director general, neither confirmed nor denied the source's reports. He said Aeroflot was considering buying "as much stock in the Serbian airline as possible." Kanishchev said Aeroflot will invest $100 million in JAT for the purchase of short-range aircraft. JAT now has a pool of 17 aircraft, including 12 Boeing 737 long-range jets, against Aeroflot's 88 aircraft. JAT Airways handles flights to 38 cities compared to Aeroflot which covers 90 cities, including 36 in Europe. As of early 2006 the Serbian air carrier's debt exceeded $197 million. Experts said the acquisition of the Serbian airline could help Aeroflot establish its presence on the European market.
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