Marfin Investment Group SA, the investment firm backed by Dubai Financial LLC, has been chosen by Greece to buy its unprofitable flag carrier Olympic Airlines SA.
Talks between Marfin and the Greek government’s advisers on a sale of the flight business and maintenance base “ended successfully,” Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said in an e-mailed statement early today. The negotiations have been extended for a week so talks between Marfin, Swissport and the advisers on a sale of the ground-handling division can also be completed, Hatzidakis said.
If the deal is successfully completed, the state will receive 177 million euros ($224.4 million) from the sale, according to Hatzidakis. The sale, which is subject to European Union approval, will avert the closure of an airline that links the mainland and hundreds of Greek islands, playing a critical role in the country’s tourism and transport infrastructure.
Plagued by regulatory and union disputes, successive Greek governments have struggled to sell the carrier. Greece got EU approval in September to sell Olympic and its ground-handling and maintenance-service units separately in an effort to end years of regulatory disputes over subsidies. That sale was called off after offers were deemed too low.
Marfin Invest, Greece’s biggest buyout fund, emerged as a candidate for Olympic after a government appeal to save the airline. Aegean Airlines SA, Olympic’s biggest Greek rival, made a counter-bid of 170 million euros for the company on March 4.
Founded in 1957 by shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, Olympic Airlines was acquired by the state in the 1970s. It has cost taxpayers more than 2 billion euros in the past decade.