A private Greek investment consortium is about to enter take-over talks with struggling Olympic Airlines following the collapse of an international bid for the loss-making state carrier.
Marfin Investment Group, an investment group led by Greek entrepreneur Andreas Vgenopoulos, said it was responding to an appeal by the government to national businesses to rescue the airline.This week the Greek government announced on the failure of an attempt to find a strategic investor for Olympic.
Costas Hatzidakis, development minister, told the Financial Times, “The tender has been declared void” as all seven bids for Olympic’s flying operations, ground-handling and technical base, offered as separate units, were too low.
“We are moving to the next stage, an open proposal to Greek business groups to participate in direct negotiations,” he added.
Athens Airways offered €24.5m for Olympic’s flying operations in partnership with Sky One, a US-based charter operator. However the figure set by the government was €50m. The only other bidder was Chrysler Aviation, a US-based aircraft charter carrier.
Swissport made the highest bid for the ground-handling operation, and was the only bidder for the technical base. But both bids were below the government’s threshold price.
The European Commission last year paved the way for Olympic’s privatisation by writing off over €2.6bn in accumulated debt of the perennially loss-making airline, which was losing €2bn a day in the fourth quarter last year. It also suspended court action over the repayment of €850m in state aid.
The Marfin group has investments in ranging from coastal shipping and tourism, to healthcare and real estate, spanning several countries in southeast Europe. Dubai Group, the Gulf state’s investment arm, holds a 17 per stake in Marfin.
Mafrin said in a statement that it would be willing to negotiate “alongside any other healthy business or investment group that wants to participate.”
“In the critical and challenging economic environment that we are currently experiencing, the continuation of Olympic’s operations is of vital importance to the Greek tourism industry, employment, national sentiment and Greece’s status in the international investment community. Olympic is an inseparable part of our history, identity and everyday life and we all desire its continuing existence in order to, among other, bolster our national pride once again.”