ECONOMY

Aegean confirms binding bid for sole Greek rival Olympic

Privately held Aegean Airlines yesterday confirmed it will take part in the final phase of Olympic Airlines’ privatization, submitting a binding bid for Greece’s ailing state carrier. «Aegean Airlines submitted a proposal to participate in the final phase of the privatization of Olympic’s flying activities,» it said in a statement. It said details could not be disclosed due to its commitments toward Greece’s advisers on the privatization. Earlier yesterday, an Aegean source told Reuters the carrier would proceed with a binding bid. Still, Aegean, which competes with Olympic on domestic and some international routes, cited serious legal and operational difficulties in implementing the pursued privatization. «Should our proposal be short-listed, we will explore possibilities to overcome these difficulties. Aegean will proceed to a deal only if there can be a viable solution, allowing high-level service and competitive prices for passengers,» the carrier said. Aegean said it would support any other bid the government picks, provided it complies with Greek and European Union law. Unions against sale Greece is again trying to sell Olympic as part of a privatization campaign to raise revenues to pay down public debt, one of the highest in the eurozone. The government, which is targeting proceeds of 1.6 billion euros ($2.05 billion) this year from state divestments, has retained Lazard, National Bank, Emporiki Investment Bank and Alpha Finance as advisers on the privatization. Olympic Airlines unions (OSPA) were quick to blast the government’s privatization effort, saying Olympic should stay in state hands. «Plans and policies promoting Olympic’s privatization, shrinking and breakup are catastrophic for the national carrier and its employees,» OSPA’s board told reporters. Calling a three-hour work stoppage for April 19, in line with a call by the Civil Aviation Sector of the European Transport Workers Federation (EFT), the union said it was categorically opposed to Olympic’s privatization and would try hard to upset it. «We reject Olympic’s current organizational and operational model and are unanimously in favor of a state-owned national carrier,» the board said. Olympic Airlines posted a 23.08-million-euro loss in 2003. Greece’s transport minister has said a sale of Olympic is the flag carrier’s «last chance for survival.» Separately, Francois Ballestero, ETF Civil Aviation secretary, voiced opposition to the continuing deregulation of the civil aviation industry. «The appearance of low-cost airlines and the process of airline mergers results in the shrinking of the number of jobs, which, according to IATA data, has fallen by 20,000 in the largest 16 European companies,» he said. (Reuters, Kathimerini)