Five players have eye on OA

As an important week approaches for the future of Olympic Airlines (OA), an investment group consisting of five companies is interested in investing 100 million euros in Greece’s national air carrier, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. The five companies – including two shipping firms and a foreign investment fund – have informed senior government officials that they are prepared to contribute 100 million euros to OA’s share capital with the state chipping in another 60 million euros. Transport Minister Michalis Liapis said last week that the government is working to restructure and privatize the state-owned airline so it will operate as a commercial enterprise. The minister, however, stopped short of disclosing any further information about OA’s future. Sources recently told Kathimerini the airline will be trimmed and will operate under a new name, Pantheon Airways, according to a business plan prepared by the government. Pantheon will begin with 33 leased aircraft and will fly to 92 destinations, according to the plan, which has been submitted to European Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot. The government is optimistic that it will find the right formula to stop the airline from being grounded despite the European Commission’s firm stance that OA must repay 600 million in illegal state aid. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and Deputy Minister Petros Doukas briefed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday about OA and how talks are progressing with the Commission. If the Finance and Transport ministries can keep the airline flying, it will earn political leverage for the conservative government as thousands of jobs are at stake. The case is expected to go to the European Court of Justice, with a formal announcement expected possibly on April 4. On Thursday, the Commission’s Cabinet chiefs are scheduled to meet, when they will discuss the issue and draft the decision for the EU court referral.