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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aeroflot Makes Offer for Serbia's JAT Airline

BELGRADE -- Aeroflot has made an offer to buy Serbian flag carrier JAT Airways, Serbia's infrastructure minister was quoted as saying Friday.

"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," Velimir Ilic told the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti.

"It is up to the government to decide whether Aeroflot would become the full owner of the company or would buy only a part of the company," Ilic said.

A JAT official confirmed the approach. "So far Aeroflot has made the best and the most concrete proposal," said the official, who asked not to be identified.

The official, who declined to disclose details of the offer, said negotiations had been conducted with other companies.

If the sale goes through, it would be Aeroflot's first acquisition outside Russia, though it is also bidding for Italy's Alitalia, together with Italian bank UniCredit.

It is not clear what effect buying JAT might have on Aeroflot's Alitalia bid, or vice versa.

Serbia's new government had said the privatization of JAT would be among its priorities.

The airline, which employs around 1,700 people, was hard hit by international sanctions imposed on Serbia during the wars and isolation of the 1990s, when its entire fleet was grounded.

In 2006, JAT posted a net profit of $5 million. Its fleet mainly comprises Boeing 737 planes that have been flying more than 20 years. It last bought an aircraft in the early 1990s.