ECONOMY

Six interested in Olympic

Six bidders expressed interest in acquiring a stake of at least 51 percent in Olympic Airlines yesterday, the Transport Ministry said, marking its second attempt within a year to privatize the debt-burdened flag carrier. All six bidders presented sufficient financial guarantees, a spokeswoman at the Transport Ministry said. The ministry has made potential buyers’ financial capability a key requirement this time after the embarrassing debacle during the last privatization attempt, when the preferred bidder failed to cough up the mandatory bank guarantees at the last minute. The bidders are New Wings headed by Greek tycoon Pavlos Vardinoyiannis, Olympic Investors led by Greek lawyer Costas Alexakis, US company Wexford, US charter company Chrysler Aviation headed by Greek-American Stelios Rabis, Golden Aviation led by shipowner Stamatis Restis (who had taken part in the previous sell-off attempt), and privately owned Aegean Airlines. Australian group International Airline Solutions, a failed bidder last time, asked for an extension of the deadline but was turned down. The ministry hopes to announce a preferred bidder next week. Olympic is estimated to need a capital injection of 150 million euros. The government recently sold a 58 percent stake in subsidiary Olympic Catering as part of a move to slim down the carrier. Olympic lifted sales revenues in Greece in the first nine months of the year by 24.7 percent to 159 million euros and total network sales by 2.4 percent to 517 million euros. An operational profit is projected this year. The European Commission is currently looking into state subsidies granted to the airline to see if they were illegal. National Bank, Alpha Bank and Commercial Bank are advising the government on Olympic’s privatization.