Greece says tender for Olympic Airlines sale fails


ATHENS – A tender for the sale of Greece’s ailing carrier Olympic Airlines failed and the government called on Greek businessmen on Wednesday to buy the carrier.

“The result of the tender was not what we had expected,” Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis told reporters after a government’s privatisations committee meeting.

The deadline for the submission of binding offers in Olympic’s privatisation tender expired on Friday.

Greece has wrangled for years with Brussels over state aid to Olympic. The latest attempt to sell the carrier had been approved by the European Commission, which agreed to suspend action over illegal state subsidies if the sale went ahead.

“The tender was void and we are moving to a new stage for the sale of Olympic,” Hatzidakis said. “We are addressing an open proposal to Greek business groups for the sale of Olympic through direct negotiations.”

Greece split the loss-making carrier into three units — flying, aircraft maintenance and ground handling — last September in a last ditch bid to sell the airline after years of failed privatisation efforts.

Olympic Airlines unions, who have been opposing the plan, said the result of the tender proved the government’s failure in handling Olympic.

“The minister has essentially admitted the failure of his plan,” the head of Olympic Airlines employees’ unions Markos Kandylakis said he said.

The Finance Ministry said in a statement Athens Airways-SkyOne and Chrysler Aviation submitted bindings bids for Olympic flight assets, while Swissport, a unit of Spain’s Grupo Ferrovial, Hellenic Cargo Group, Goldair and Joseph in-Albon bid for the ground handling.

Swissport was the only bidder for the aircraft maintenance, the statement added, saying all the bids were too low.

Athens Airways-SkyOne submitted the highest bid of 24.5 million euros, about half of what the government had set as a minimum. The firm said it was still interested in the carrier.

“We will seek to take part in any further negotiations that will take place,” Athens Airways CEO Sakis Andrianopoulos said.