IAS gets tycoons’ boost

Sidelined but not out of the competition, Australian venture capital group Integrated Airline Solutions (IAS) said yesterday that it had enlisted the help of tycoons Constantine Angelopoulos and Pavlos N. Vardinoyiannis to strengthen its bid for Olympic Airways (OA). Michalis Alexiou, a member of the union of OA pilots which is supporting the IAS bid, told Kathimerini English Edition that the two men were offering financial backing equivalent to 35 percent of the consortium’s offer for the ailing state-owned carrier. The final figure will depend on the eventual stake to be sold by the government. He said that IAS’s financial offer has now been improved by some 30 percent with the entry of the new partners. We have submitted the new details to OA’s privatization advisor Credit Suisse First Boston and will wait until the end of the week for the state to make the next move, Alexiou said. However, Maria Marinos, spokeswoman at London-based Credit Suisse First Boston, said she could not confirm that a revised offer has been made. The government is presently negotiating with Axon Airlines, the privately owned Greek carrier placed first by the privatization adviser, on the sale of taking 51-65 percent of OA. Cyprus Airways and IAS were graded second and third respectively. Transport Minister Christos Verelis last month predicted that talks with Axon would end early this month. All three bidders, however, have been asked to extend their letters of guarantee until October 31. Alexiou said that in addition to Angelopoulos and Vardinoyiannis, the Fessas family, Greek American Spiros Papageorgiou (who is involved in pharmaceutical, aviation and leasing activities), local information system company Algo System, and an unnamed shipowner have all indicated interest should IAS win. The Australian venture capital group last month unveiled the first of the big names to support its bid for OA, with the announcement that Qantas Airways plans to offer its full support to the Greek carrier in both management, sales and know-how should it take over OA. IAS’s new offer also includes a bid for at least 51 percent of Olympic Catering and retaining at least 65 percent of its workforce. Alexiou said the consortium is willing to make a full takeover of the subsidiary, depending on the progress of negotiations and the government’s intentions. The revised bid includes IAS keeping 6,000 permanent employees for the group and 2,000 seasonal workers. With the PASOK Congress coming up next month, the government is under pressure to conclude a deal or least a preliminary agreement which would signal an end to the long-running Olympic saga. OA is estimated to have assets of $275 million and annual losses of $155 million.

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