ATHENS, Feb 2 (Reuters) – Greece wants a foreign airline to invest in Olympic Airlines [OLY.UL] as part of its attempt to privatise the ailing carrier, Transport Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said in an interview published on Saturday. Greece has been trying for years to sell the airline, renamed from Olympic Airways, but repeated calls for interest from investors have yielded no results for the debt-ridden carrier.
“We want to privatise the company and prefer the investor to be a foreign airline,” Hatzidakis told Isotimia newspaper. “However, our position on this is not dogmatic.”
A new privatised airline will probably retain the “Olympic” name, and will definitely keep the famous “Olympic Rings” logo, while workers will also be offered a generous early retirement package in an effort to cut staff numbers, he said.
The European Commission in December launched a new investigation into whether the carrier received illegal state aid after a Commission ruling of September 2005 that found Olympic Airways-Airlines had received incompatible state aid.
“We are preparing our response to Brussels … It will be sent by Feb 11. The EU will then continue their investigation based on our responses,” Hatzidakis said.
The Greek government has said that it was unlikely the carrier, which has been told by the EU to pay back hundreds of millions of euros in illegal state aid, could be rescued in its present state.