ECONOMY

Cyprus Airways to close ill-fated Hellas Jet in May

NICOSIA – Cyprus Airways said yesterday it had failed to find a buyer for Greek subsidiary Hellas Jet, setting in motion the process for its closure in May. «The proposals it had before it for the sale of Hellas Jet were not satisfactory and were not accepted,» the Cypriot national carrier said in a statement to the stock exchange. Cyprus Airways, hit by cheaper competition and soaring fuel costs, is in the throes of a radical restructuring which involves large-scale redundancies and spinoffs. It is also waiting for the EU to allow state-backed emergency aid this month to keep on flying. The Cypriot airline, which once expressed an interest in acquiring troubled Greek national carrier Olympic, created Hellas Jet as its fallback option when it pulled out of the bidding process for the Greek airline, frustrated at delays in the procedure. But Hellas Jet, formed in 2003 to tap an anticipated surge in travelers to Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games, was registering losses of about 1.5 million euros a month, according to company sources. In its announcement to the stock exchange, Cyprus Airways stopped short of saying the Greek unit would close but said the board of Hellas Jet would be issued with its recommendation at a board meeting tomorrow. Company sources and government ministers say the recommendation, taken by Cyprus Airways’s board of directors last Friday evening, was to wind up activities. Fearful of sanctions from the Securities Commission, Cyprus Airways’ management is more cautious with its public statements than state officials who simply declared Hellas Jet would close down. «It has suggested closure of the airline, but the board of Hellas Jet is the body which has to ultimately take this decision,» a source close to the company told Reuters. Hellas Jet’s board is appointed by Cyprus Airways, and they share the same chairman. Lazaros Savvides is a government technocrat brought in last month to revive the carrier’s fortunes after Constantinos Loizides, a banker, bowed out. The state holds the majority share in Cyprus Airways.