Two in Galileo Hellas talks

Two preferred bidders have been chosen for negotiations on the sale of electronic ticket reservation company Galileo Hellas, the Transport Ministry announced yesterday. Cendant, a US conglomerate with interests ranging from travel to financial services to hotels and the owner of New Jersey-based reservations company Galileo International, will be competing with OTEnet, a local Internet service provider under telecoms operator OTE. Negotiations between the government and the two preferred bidders will run parallel to each other and will be launched next week. Eight bidders had expressed interest in Galileo Hellas. Galileo Hellas is the second non-core subsidiary of Olympic Airways put up for sale as part of the government’s strategy to restructure the indebted flag carrier into a regional airline focusing on its core activity. A majority stake in Olympic Catering, the carrier’s catering subsidiary, was sold off last year, kicking off the disposal program. Olympic has dropped long-haul routes and trimmed its bloated work force in recent months. The latest attempt to privatize the carrier fizzled out early this week, with the government insisting that it would not budge on the price nor the conditions of the tender. It also reiterated its determination to keep the carrier in the air. Set up in 1991, Galileo Hellas has a 48 percent market share and a network of more than 1,000 travel agents with more than 2,000 terminals in Greece, Cyprus, Israel and the Balkans. It posted pretax profits of 3 million euros in 2001 against turnover of 8.9 million euros. Deloitte & Touche is advising the government on the sale.