Ultimate plan for saving Olympic Airlines this fall

This coming October may well prove to be the springtime that Olympic Airlines has long yearned for, putting an end to speculation about the Greek national carrier being swayed by Brussels, the unions or even the coming elections. The proclamation of an international tender for the sale of Olympic Airlines will take place in October, while consultation with the unions will begin during July to discuss their possible participation in the share capital of the companies to emerge after the streamlining program is completed. The government is aiming not only to rid itself of the financial burden of the company, being under strong pressure by the European Commission to solve the issue, but also to have the employees’ consent so as to avoid the political cost. In spite of rumors from Brussels that suggested the airline would be grounded for good, the government’s new planning provides for the splitting of the company and its sale in different stages. Athens’s priority at the moment is to execute the decisions of the European Union and the European Court of Justice about the so-called «illegal state subsidies» to the national carrier, by counterbalancing the company’s requirements to the state with those of the state to the company. The Commission ruled Olympic must return 540 million euros to the state but the airline is seeking the return of 580 million euros from the state through decisions by courts of arbitration. Despite rumors the Commission was going to reject this solution, it seems that in recent months it has allowed the government to act as it plans to. The Finance Ministry’s plan is to proclaim an international tender in October to attract investors to Olympic Airlines. So far interest from abroad has come from French, Italian and British investors, while interest from funds cannot be ruled out. Greek shipowners continue to show their interest, too, aimed at expanding their activities from sea to air. The seven subsidiaries of Olympic Airways’ services will probably have a different fate by being separately privatized, with some of them already being profitable, such as the ground-handling services. The company’s technical base, which conducts the repairs and maintenance of aircraft, also has considerable growth prospects and has attracted the interest of the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB). However, ministry sources suggest that if a significant proposal comes for the whole of Olympic, it will be considered seriously.

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