2018年3月31日 星期六

MEO, TAP, helicopters and Easter

Dear reader

News and views from the Algarve...

Billionaire businessman, Patrick Drahi, controls Altice, which bought Portugal Telecom’s domestic business in 2015. MEO was part of PT, so Drahi also owns this telecoms provider.

Deciding to charge customers €1 a month for the privilege of receiving the bill, MEO has waded into deep and hot water, not least with DECO which is challenging the legality of charging people to tell them how much they owe. Customers with email can get their monthly bills for free but this penalises those not on email for whatever reason. It is up to MEO to ensure the bill is presented in a way that the customers find easiest.

The bleat-fest has started with MEO commenting that DECO has, "promoted a serious misconception which is lacking in truth and thus penalised, in a serious and unjustified way, the reputation of Altice Portugal."

Whoever is on charge of corporate communications at MEO needs a refresher course in basic PR.

Drahi did not become a billionaire by being Mr Nice Guy but this monthly charge for his poorest customers is a foolish step for a businessman keen on developing his image in Portugal. For one thing, he needs to explain why Altice is based in the Netherlands. 

The next time Drahi stays at the Conrad, perhaps he should be charged an extra €1 when he demands his bill.


Someone else who should remain quiet at a difficult time is our Finance Minister, Mario Centeno, the Ronaldo of European finance, who was complaining last week that the €3.9 billion that taxpayers were obliged to shovel into Caixa Geral last year should somehow be treated as an ‘investment.’

This banking bailout has been categorised by Europe as part of the annual deficit which, therefore, rose from a creditable 0.9% of GDP to a less than appealing 3%.

Centeno is on thin ice by claiming the bailout was not State aid. He should remain quiet and, as he remarked, the new deficit figure will have little or no impact on the international view of Portugal as a place in which to invest. 


The main banking news last week was the eye-watering loss declared by Novo Banco whose American owners are behaving as per expectations by dumping as many non-performing loans as possible with taxpayers picking up the tab. Well, actually, the Resolution Fund picks up the tab as it still owns 25% of Novo Banco and has to keep paying into the business to ensure there is enough capital for the bank to keep its licence.

The Resolution Fund is supported by obligatory transfers from Portugal’s banks but when there is not enough in the pot, the State (aka Portugal’s taxpayers) have to lend money to the Resolution Fund which immediately throws it at Novo Banco to enable it to continue trading.

The business, now owned by Lone Star, a US vulture fund, declared a loss of 1.4 billion last year, on top of the 788 million it lost the year before.

When the governor of the Bank of Portugal devised the insane ‘good bank - bad bank’ scheme to save his chums at BES, the premise was that the ‘good bank’ would have all the good assets. This has turned out to be nonsense as the long-term plan seems to have been for the taxpayer to fund the whole shambles with good loans suddenly turning into bad ones. 

EU governments and the European authorities are keen that banks are propped up by taxpayers, but devise all sorts of complex financial schemes to try and hide the fact that this is the case.

Novo Banco is a 75% privately owned business, yet taxpayers are shouldering its liabilities for years to come. When Lone Star sells Novo Banco, which it can in 30 months time, Lone Star may do very well indeed and Portugal’s taxpayers will be stood in the rain, holding out their sodden caps.


Deutsche Bank has ended its involvement in Portugal’s high streets with the sale of its few remaining branches to Spain’s, Abanca.

Issuing a vacuous statement about strategy and focus, Deutsche Bank’s relief was palpable and is to continue with its corporate clients, until these too are handed over to a management that can them profitable.

Abanca makes money, with its 640 branches creating a surplus of 367 million last year.

What it will do with Deutsche bank’s 41 outlets in Lisbon and Porto, remains to be seen as the deal won’t be completed until 2019 due to remaining regulatory hurdles.


The increase in air traffic and tourist numbers in Lisbon has been impressive.

Humberto Delgado airport has been heading towards full capacity for years, now is full. 

Successive governments have dithered about building new capacity while continuing to promote the capital as a tourist haven and business destination for those investing in Portugal. These latter efforts have been highly successful, so where is the new airport?

The military airbase at Montijo would seem to offer the perfect solution. Located south of the Tagus, Montijo is relatively easy to convert to civilian use - so where are we on that? An environmental impact study has been commissioned and, at best, services could start in 2022, maybe...

This lack of forward planning is shameful. Either Lisbon holds off promoting itself or Montijo needs to be fast-tracked.

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary blames the French-owned airports operator, ANA, and said last May that there should be some competition with Montijo’s management contract going to another operator as this will speed things up.

As for the environmental impact, Montijo already is a military airbase so the impact of conversion to a commercial airport surely should not be too devastating?


TAP passengers on a flight from Stuttgart to Lisbon were not best pleased when German police boarded the aircraft and removed the co-pilot who was drunk. Earlier he had been observed weaving through the terminal.

The flight was cancelled and TAP later issued a rather weak statement about holding a full inquiry etc etc.

How did a “highly intoxicated” pilot get anywhere near the flight deck and why did the Captain fail to report him immediately? These are the questions TAP needs to answer but still we wait for a full statement.

The wry, ‘Take Another Plane’ moniker for TAP,  has been sounding less accurate recently, as the Gateway Consortium instilled some verve and financial controls. With this latest incident and a lack of frank explanation from the airline, the wags have free rein to be inventive once again. 


Portugal’s Civil Protection Authority has stirred the hornets’ nest of helicopter provision by sealing off a maintenance hangar being used to repair what remains of the six clapped out Kamov helicopters, bought for an inflated 42 million from the Russians.

Engineers were suspected of removing spare parts from the maintenance area, the place was shut down, the engineers returned to Russia and the accusations started to fly - unlike the helicopters which all are inoperable despite the comfort of a 46 million maintenance contract.

Expect another tender to be issued for more private helicopters to fight next summer’s fires.

Meanwhile, Portugal’s Air Force, which has been able and willing to run emergency fire-fighting air cover during summer seasons, is prevented from doing so, at least until 2019.

In summary, those on the gravy train are making a fortune from the private provision of helicopters air support. The Kamov disaster has created a need for yet more privately supplied air cover and the Air Force, which taxpayers already fund, has not been asked to help - business as usual then and bungs all round.


Easter seems to be a period for strikes with the railways shutting down on Monday, SEF personnel staying in bed for a few days, TAP’s mysterious cancellation of dozens of flights with no reason given and Ryanair cabin crews withdrawing labour.

Michael O’Leary senses a plot and reckons that union activists working for his competitors have pushed his cabin crews into strike mode.

Nothing to do then, with the appalling employment conditions imposed by this business leader who would not be out of place running a Lancashire mill in the 1800s.


A new branch of a sizeable insurance business, SerSuguro, has opened in Almancil, managed by a chap familiar to many readers. Worth getting a comparison quote when renewal time comes around.


News you may have missed last week

FCO issues 'terrorist' travel advice for Brits visiting Portugal

The UK's Foreign Commonwealth Office has issued an alert for those travelling to Portugal whom...

Ryanair blames cabin crew strike on its competitors

Ryanair was forced to cancel at least 20 flights to and from Portugal on Thursday, as cabin...


Communist Party’s 'Algarve rail improvements' proposal approved by parliament

The Portuguese Communist Party’s draft resolution, "For the improvement of rail transport in the Algarve" has been...


GNR warnings to be issued after March 31 scrubland clearance deadline

Easter Monday heralds the GNR’s inspection phase to see how well property and landowners have done in...


Government accused of lying over Novo Banco guarantees

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Catastrophe avoided - water levels in Alentejo dams save regional agriculture

The highest rainfall for nearly 20 years has restored water levels in the dams of the Alentejo...


GNR and Guardia Civil focus on Monte Gordo the Easter

Portugal GNR and Spain’s Guardia Civil are joining forces for 'Operation Easter.' GNR patrols from Tavira will...


Desidério Silva challenged for Algarve tourism's top job

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'Becoming a Portuguese Citizen' - update

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Brazilian virtual reality company chooses Faro as potential European base

A virtual reality company based in Brazil has announced its intention to install a production unit...


Violent crime decreases but arson and ATM crime on the up

The Annual Internal Security Report for 2017 recorded a 3.3% increase in general crime but a welcome...


Features from last week

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Weekly Currency Forecast

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Espiche Golf's Gecko Bistro Launches Inventive New Menu with Celebrated International Chef

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SHS Patio Heating Solutions

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Algarve Art Magazine - Spring 2018

Welcome to the latest edition of the Algarve Art magazine. The Spring...


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