Aegean is open to a joint bid for Olympic Airways

Privately owned Aegean Airlines said yesterday it could participate in a consortium to purchase a 51 percent stake in Olympic Airways which is still struggling to find a buyer two years after the State announced plans to privatize the debt-burdened national flag carrier. Theodoros Vassilakis, chief executive, said that while the company has made no final decision on the issue for the moment, it might consider taking part in a group making an offer for Olympic Airways. However, he cautioned that «it’s premature to say if Aegean is part of the groups bidding for Olympic.» Aegean first indicated interest in the national airline two years ago, but did not follow through after a review of Olympic’s data. An attempt by the government to sell the national airline in February ended in failure after a group which included an Australian consortium, Integrated Airline Solutions, and led by Greek tycoon Pavlos Vardinoyiannis, failed to cough up the required bank guarantees. The government subsequently switched advisers as it dropped Credit Suisse First Boston and picked three local banks to help it search for buyers for Olympic. Underlining the tough conditions in the global airline industry, National Bank, Alpha Bank and Commercial Bank have yet to report any success with their quest. Potential buyers that emerged over the summer included Vardinoyiannis and Olympic pilots in a New Wings consortium and US charter company Chrysler Aviation. Seeking to improve Olympic’s prospects, the State meanwhile has decided to shear the airline of its non-core assets. A 58 percent stake in subsidiary Olympic Catering was sold last month to fast-food chain Everest, while electronic seat reservation company Galileo Hellas is due to go on the block. By dropping some routes and curbing expenditure, Olympic management said the company is set to post an operational profit this year against a loss of 95 million euros in 2000. Aegean’s revenues are projected to rise by 14.3 percent this year to exceed 180 million euros, despite an estimated 18-20 percent drop in passenger traffic. Chartered flights are expected to account for 20 percent of the figure. A drastic restructuring program launched since it took over its smaller rival Cronus has led to a drastic drop in Aegean’s expenses, Dimitris Gerogiannis, general manager, told Kathimerini English Edition. «We have saved millions of euros following a renegotiation of all our aircraft lease contracts and after pruning general overheads,» he said. Aegean is due to launch twice-weekly flights to Dusseldorf and Stuttgart from Athens on October 29. A new route linking Iraklion with the two German cities and Munich will also kick off next week, with two flights available weekly. The airline claimed to lead in passenger load and market share for flights to Germany.