The chief executive of International Airlines Group said investors were interested in buying a 12 percent stake in the airline owned by troubled Spanish lender Bankia.

“There are investors interested in replacing Bankia, and in my opinion, it is not a question of if, but when they are going to sell,” Willie Walsh said in an interview with Spanish financial newspaper Expansion published on Tuesday.

Bankia is under pressure to sell corporate shareholdings since asking for a lifeline of 19 billion euros ($24 billion), the largest state rescue in Spain, last month.

Walsh said he was open to other airlines as shareholders as long as they remained “neutral”, adding there was no strategic value in having the Spanish government - which also holds 12 percent of IAG - as a stakeholder.

IAG was formed by the merger of British Airways and Spanish flag carrier Iberia in 2010.

Regarding Iberia, Walsh said the airline was not competitive because of its cost structure and pledged to “do whatever it takes to make it viable”. - Reuters