LISBON, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Loftleidir Icelandic, a private Icelandic airline, remains undecided on whether to take up its option to buy a 49 percent stake in Azores Airlines, a spokesman said on Monday.
Last week, the SATA group, which owns the financially-ailing Azores Airlines, announced that Loftleidir Icelandic, the only bidder, had qualified for the second round of buyout negotiations.
"This means we now get access to more information about the company," Erlendur Svavarsson, vice-president of Loftleidir Icelandic, told the Lusa Portuguese News Agency.
"After we've reviewed and analyzed this information, we'll decide on whether to enter the second phase of the process," he said.
The second stage would see Loftleidir Icelandic put forward a concrete proposal. A third stage would be negotiating a deal.
The SATA group, which has the Autonomous Region of the Azores as sole shareholder, insists on a number of criteria being fulfilled. Any potential buyer must agree to maintain the airline's name and business identity, and make commitments to providing local employment.
Interested parties must also commit to continuing existing regular services between mainland Portugal and the archipelago's capital Ponta Delgada, on the island of Sao Miguel.
Furthermore, the operator is obliged to maintain semi-regular services to other islands, Terceira, Horta, Pico and Santa Maria, and between Ponta Delgada and Funchal, in Madeira, Portugal's other mid-Atlantic archipelago.
Internationally, connections must be continued between Ponta Delgada and Frankfurt, in Germany, and Terceira and Ponta Delgada and Boston and Oakland, in the USA, and Toronto, in Canada.
The international element is thought to be the deal's selling point for Loftleidir Icelandic. The airline operates a number of successful cross-Atlantic routes that fly from mainland Europe with a stop-off in Iceland. It would likely offer a similar package via the Azores.
Loftleidir Icelandic, which is part of the Islandair group, is also negotiating the purchase of a 51 percent stake in Cape Verde Air Transport (TACV).