Government upbeat on OA sale

The privatization of Olympic Airlines is proceeding well, the government said yesterday, as it kept former Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis in charge of the sale procedure. Hatzidakis, who was appointed development minister earlier this month in a Cabinet reshuffle, will oversee the procedure in cooperation with his colleague at the Transport Ministry, Evripidis Stylianidis. «It was unanimously decided to extend Costis Hatzidakis’s authority to supervise the matter, because he has handled it up until now, in cooperation with Evripidis Stylianidis,» the Finance Ministry said in a statement. «The privatization procedure is progressing smoothly, in accordance with the time frame that has been announced,» it added. Last month, seven investors submitted nonbinding bids for the airline and all of them were cleared to continue to the next stage of the privatization procedure. 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. Seven nonbinding bids were also received for the ground-handling unit and three for the technical division. The deadline for the submission of binding bids is January 30. No bids have been made so far, according to ministry sources who added that they are likely to be submitted just before the deadline expires to avoid details being leaked to the press. The government is keen to express its belief that the sale will be successful, despite the downturn, after previous attempts to sell the loss-making airline had failed. Greek governments have spent years seeking private investors to take over Olympic Airlines, which is riddled with debt, but the process was complicated by the European Commission’s demand that the company repay unlawfully disbursed state aid.

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