NEWS

Olympic sale deadline on Monday

The government yesterday extended the deadline for Olympic Airways’ privatization once again, indicating the difficulty that it was having in selling the troubled national carrier. «On Monday the definitive decisions will be taken as to whether to continue negotiations with the agents of the second bid,» government spokesman Christos Protopapas said. He was referring to a bid by the Australian-led venture capital firm Integrated Airline Solutions (IAS). Yesterday was the deadline for the sale, by which time IAS was to present details of its financial standing and deposit a check for 102 million euros in an escrow account. The lead bidder in this latest effort to privatize Olympic, a Greek airline called Axon, declared on November 30 that it was suspending operations because of a drop in traffic after the September 11 terrorist attacks in America. «We want to maintain our national carrier in such a way that it will not burden the Greek people,» Protopapas said. «It is clear that we are studying seriously, responsively and exhaustively all the possibilities and offers that exist. Let us not trap ourselves with regard to time. Serious work is being carried out and when decisions are taken they will be announced.» Other than IAS there are no bidders. The EU has forbidden the government to provide any further support to the airline and it is not clear what will happen to it if the deal falls through. «If it is judged that this offer can go ahead it will go ahead. If it is judged as not going ahead, other options will be examined,» Protopapas said. He attacked the conservative New Democracy party’s spokesman for charging that «the absence of policy, the lack of consistency and continuous lack of direction on the part of the government have led to the complete discrediting of Olympic.»