Seven bids submitted for Olympic

Seven investors submitted non-binding bids for loss-making Olympic Airlines, with all the bidders cleared to continue to the next stage of the privatization procedure, the government said yesterday. «The deadline for the submission of binding bids is January 30, 2009,» the joint ministerial privatization committee said in a statement. Seven non-binding bids were also received for the ground-handling unit and three for the technical division. SkyEurope, a central European charter airline, Kuwait’s Fouad Alghanim Group and a joint offer from SkyOne, a US charter airline, and Athens Airways, a new carrier active in Greece, were among the bidders for the flight business, which is now called Pantheon, according to the Transport Ministry. Chrysler Aviation and London-based buyout firm Klesch & Co. Ltd. also bid. The Fouad Group additionally put in offers for the other two units being sold. Swissport and Goldair were among the bidders for ground-handling operations, the ministry added. Two major airlines previously touted as likely buyers for Olympic or its units, Qatar and Iberia, were not on the list. Greece has wrangled for years with Brussels over state aid to Olympic. Its latest privatization plan has been approved by the European Commission, which agreed to suspend action over illegal state subsidies if the sale went ahead. In September, Greece’s conservative government split the national carrier into three units and launched a tender to privatize them. The move ended years of efforts to find a single buyer for the company, which loses about 2 million euros daily. The Transport Ministry said in November that 13 investors had expressed interest in buying parts of the state-run Olympic Airlines group. Olympic Airlines carried 6.2 million passengers in 2007 to 36 cities and islands in Greece and to 37 destinations in Europe, Asia, North America and Africa.