Deadline looms for struggling Cyprus Airways

Potential buyers of Cyprus Airways have until Wednesday to submit nonbinding offers for the loss-making national carrier, with Ryanair and Aegean Airlines in the running.

Ireland’s budget carrier Ryanair said last week that it was ready to submit a firm offer for Cyprus Airways, before the government extended last Friday’s deadline for nonbinding offers to Wednesday.

Although it made no official statement on the deadline extension, local media quoting official sources said it was to allow more time for the 14 interested suitors to put in a bid.

Some of them had reportedly complained they did not have access to questions raised and answers provided to rival bidders.

Earlier in August, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary met with Cypriot officials and proposed how he could turn the airline into a profitable operation by increasing passenger traffic by 500 percent over three years.

He said that with the help of his low-cost airline Cyprus Airways would experience rapid growth with new routes and more flights, increasing passenger numbers to 3 million a year from the current average of 500,000.

The recession-hit government owns 93 percent of troubled Cyprus Airways and wants to offload it.

Greece’s Aegean Airlines, which has also held talks with government officials, is seen as another serious contender as it aims to use Larnaca Airport as a second base outside Athens.

Also said to be in the frame are Romania’s low-budget Blue Air and Spanish Group Arevenca in collaboration with Fly Aruba.

Cyprus Airways, meanwhile, has had a change of chairman, with Tony Antoniou stepping down last month to be replaced by former civil servant Makis Constantinides.

Local newspapers say key conditions for the sale are that the airline remains based in Cyprus and as many staff as possible keep their jobs.

Once nonbinding business proposals have been received by 6 p.m., a short list will be drawn up at the end of September.

Those on the short list will be given financial data on Cyprus Airways and asked to put in a final binding offer.