NEWS

Axon says it is suspending operations

Axon Airlines, which was bidding to buy national carrier Olympic Airways, announced yesterday that it was suspending operations due to the crisis in the airline industry. The decision was criticized by Greece’s largest labor organization and raised questions as to how a company so close to collapse had been the preferred bidder for Olympic until recently. Axon is owned by Thomas Liakounakos, a prominent supplier of arms to the Greek military. The international crisis in air transport which has affected all companies in the sector after the terrorist attack of September 11 in the United States is rapidly worsening, the losses are growing greatly and the outlook for a recovery does not appear to be close, Axon said in an announcement quoted by the Athens News Agency. In 1999, it added, Axon invested in new modern planes and expert crews so as to serve citizens safely. But the radical overturning of the market’s conditions canceled all our plans and led us to the unpleasant decision to suspend the company’s operations, it added. But if international and national conditions in the air transportation sector improve, Axon Airlines will reconsider both the possibility of resuming operations and of carrying out our investment programs, said the announcement from the company’s board of directors. Axon, which served local routes as well as flights to Milan, Brussels and Paris, had been the preferred bidder for Olympic until earlier last month, when talks appeared deadlocked over the company’s inability to ensure that it could come up with the necessary funds for the purchase. Australian venture capital firm Integrated Airline Solutions was given the opportunity on November 19 to put its case for the purchase of Olympic Airways and it began talks with Credit Suisse First Boston, which is advising the sale. This came after four months of inconclusive talks with Axon, despite the airline’s being named first bidder by CSFB. IAS has the backing of Olympic pilots and magnates such as Constantinos Angelopoulos and Pavlos Vardinoyiannis. Christos Polyzogopoulos, president of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), declared that Axon’s sudden suspension of operations was unacceptable. He said GSEE would do all it could to secure the jobs of employees. Salonica farmers postpone protests