Three suitors made binding offers on Monday, May 14, for a majority stake in Greece's ailing Olympic Airways but at least one, Cyprus Airways, said the bid was conditional on the viability of the venture.
Greek Transport Minister Christos Verelis announced the three also included the fledging private Greek airline Axon and a group headed by Greek ship owner Stamatis Restis. "We are pleased there were three offers," he told reporters. "Olympic Airways has been tormented for two decades... Greek taxpayers must be rid of this continuous bleeding."
He said Australia's Integrated Airline Solutions, one of four originally short listed bidders, dropped out after Greece refused its request for an extension of the deadline, which had already been pushed forward.
The minister said the government was particular pleased at getting three offers while similar attempts in other countries had failed for lack of interest. "Satisfaction is obvious from the fact that all efforts to privatize airlines in Europe in recent years had resulted in not attracting a single offer," Verelis said.
Privatization advisers Credit Suisse First Boston would examine all offers and make its proposal on the preferred bidder within seven or eight days, Verelis said.
Cyprus Airways, the only bidder with apparent substantial aviation experience said it had made a conditional bid, dependent on Greek state guarantees that would make the airline viable.
"These (conditions) are seen as necessary to safeguard the interests of the company and the viability of the new Olympic Airways," it said in a statement. Earlier, the company had expressed concern at the lack of recent financial data on Olympic and apparent confusion over what part of the airline would be sold.
All three bidders had requested and got an extension of the deadline for binding bids till May 14, apparently in order to get better information on the airline. The Greek government, which is banned by European Union restrictions from pouring any more money into its indebted flag carrier, wants to sell a 51-65 percent of the Airline to ensure its survival.
Long plagued by bad management and labor strife, Olympic will be split into two parts, with the state assuming the debts and the healthy stake sold out. The cash-strapped airline is in the throes of an expensive move to the new Athens international airport at Spata, where it faces more expensive fees.
None of the bidders have disclosed details of their bids or the names of the partners in their groups. Cyprus Airways officials have said they would want management control and at least 25 percent ownership of the company for themselves.
The Greek press has speculated that the other two bidders would eventually disclose partnerships with bigger firms. ― (Reuters, Athens)
By Dina Kyriakidou
© Reuters 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)