ECONOMY

Cyprus Airways looks at Greek market for future expansion via subsidiary

NICOSIA – Cypriot flag carrier Cyprus Airways is eying the Greek market for future expansion through the creation of a subsidiary there, a spokesman said yesterday. Cyprus Airways, which withdrew from the bidding process for ailing Greek carrier Olympic Airways two months ago, is mooting the creation of a subsidiary for international flights and possibly teaming up with an existing carrier for domestic routes, spokesman Tasos Angelis told Reuters. The closure of private Greek carrier Axon Airlines, announced last Friday, is an opportunity to tap a vacuum left in the market, Angelis said. «We are looking at the possibility of creating a company in Greece. The project is at an advanced stage and should be concluded soon.» «Expansion in Greece was always in our sights… We feel that, especially now, there are opportunities and a vacuum which has to be filled in view of the Olympics,» he said. Axon, a small airline, pipped Cyprus Airways to the status of preferred bidder for Greece’s sale of between 51 and 65 percent of Olympic last summer. Axon announced the suspension of operations on November 30, citing an industry downturn and rising losses in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States. The Cypriot carrier, which is majority-owned by the government, came second in an assessment by privatization adviser Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB). Cyprus Airways pulled out of the bidding race in late August, with managers privately expressing frustration at delays in the Olympic selloff. Greek government negotiations with Axon collapsed in October. Negotiations are now underway with Integrated Airline Solutions (IAS), an Australian-based venture capital group. Angelis confirmed newspaper reports that CSFB had made inquiries just last week on whether the airline was still interested in Olympic. «They were wondering whether we would be willing to listen to them and talk to them and see what could be done,» the airline’s chairman, Haris Loizides, told the Cyprus Mail newspaper. In order to set up a carrier in Greece, 51 percent must be owned by EU residents, Angelis said. «We are not ruling out charter or scheduled flights, or both. We are thinking of concentrating on flights abroad and to cooperate for domestic flights with an existing private airline,» he said. He declined to name the airline, but Greece only has one private carrier now, Aegean Cronus.