Swissport International promised to resume the operations in our country either alone or with a new partner after the conflict with Ukraine International Airlines. Now the trial concerning the joint venture is still going on and Swissport still hopes to get back its shares. But regardless of the result the company has a firm intention to continue working on the Ukrainian market. Mark Skinner, Senior Vice President for Ground Handling Northern Europe and North Africa tells Center for Transport Strategies about Swissport's expectations from the Ukrainian market, judicial system as well as the plans for future.
Could you please share your plans for future regarding Ukrainian market? Is the company looking for a new partner in our country?
Before we go into the future let us have a short look at the past. Swissport hopes that it will succeed at the court. And we still hope that we will actually be able to regain the business that has been taken away from us. Our focus is on getting back the property that actually belongs to Swissport. The court process is now in the third instance - at the Highest Economic Court of Appeal. There were many hearings the last of which took place on August 30, and the next date for the court hearing is September 18. We hope that the court will decide in our favor. But on the other hand we have heard that Swissport may lose on September 18. There are certain bad signs. We started our appeal on April 16. Since then there were seven court hearings either five minutes long or being postponed or cancelled. And we were surprised by the fact that the judges were exchanged during these hearings. We were not informed about this in advance. For us it seems rather obvious what we have to expect now. It is not conform with Western standards and also the expectations of the EU.
But we are also hoping to get some support from the Ukrainian government. And the Anti-Raider-Commission actually promised us to clarify the situation and help Swissport to get back its business. But so far we have not got much support from them yet. The government and first deputy Prime Minister Sergiy Arbuzov promised us to arrange the meetings with the ambassadors but nothing happened. They don’t seem interested in solving this problem.
According to unofficial information Swissport is also negotiating with Ukraine International Airlines on the amicable agreement...
Swissport made an offer directly to Ukraine International to solve the situation amicably. But unfortunately we have received no answer from the airline. They managed to get 100% of the joint venture. And I think in this situation they are happy and not interested to get the second partner again. Although many customers came to Swissport and said that the service quality was deteriorating dramatically. The clients are scared that it will continue in future and Interavia will actually come to where it has started prior to cooperation with Swissport International. The former Swissport Ukraine - now Interavia - has lost all of its top managers - the CEO, the COO and the person responsible for the operations in Kiev. They did not want to stay with the new shareholder and decided to come back to Swissport.
You may be aware that in the meantime in order to make the court decision of getting back Swissport's share in Swissport Ukraine more difficult, Ukraine International has increased the share capital by USD 1 million. This makes it very complicated for Swissport to get back their shares. It is strange because earlier Ukraine International has criticized Swissport for the intentions to increase the share capital. Now the airline is doing this.
If Swissport loses the trial on September 18 will it look for a new partner in Ukraine?
Looking at the Ukrainian market I can say that it is definitely a growth market. We see the huge potential. And we are interested to be part of the future in Ukraine as well. So since Swissport joined more than 6 years ago the market has been growing every year at a very considerable rate. We are evaluating how the future should look. We may come alone or in partnership again. And of course we will be very careful in choosing a partner not to make the same mistake again.
And who can be Swissport's new partner in Ukraine?
I'm afraid that at the time being I cannot mention the companies we are talking to about possible partnership. But we are talking and as soon as we know what the court decision is we will be ready to make decision on our future in Ukraine. We definitely want to remain in the country because we see its huge potential and especially now with Interavia not being able to provide the quality that is expected from international customers. Someone has to step in and deliver it.