Austrian sell-off gathers pace

The Austria government has given the green light for its 43 per cent stake in the beleaguered national carrier to be sold off. Ministers are also permitting foreign investors and carriers to submit bids for the shares, opening the way for a possible purchase by German-carrier Lufthansa, which is widely regarded as the most likely purchaser.Restrictions on the purchase include 25% of the airline must remain in the hands of Austrian core shareholders, the brand must stay in tact, the HQ must remain in Vienna.

According to a statement by Austria’s finance minister, Wilhelm Molterer, the national holding company will be in charge of the privatization process and bids for Austrian Airlines will be accepted for a period of two months.

The holding agency will be required to make a decision as to the accepted bidder no later than the end of the year. Austrian Airlines will therefore see no major changes implemented until early 2009.