To Olympic Eagle:
Qantas a possible IAS partner for Olympic bid
By Dina Kyriakidou Reuters
Australia-based venture capital group Integrated Airline Solutions (IAS) has recruited compatriot Qantas Airways Ltd. as a possible partner for Olympic Airways if it wins the bid for the ailing Greek airline, IAS sources said yesterday.
The sources at IAS, whose joint bid with Olympic's pilots is placed third in the tender, told Reuters the move was expected to give their offer a huge boost.
"We believe this will strengthen our bid 100 percent," a source at IAS told Reuters.
He said IAS was submitting a letter from Qantas to the privatization advisers declaring the Australian airline's interest in cooperating with Olympic - in linking routes, helping out with know-how and upgrading services - if IAS wins.
The government is currently negotiating the sale of between 51 and 65 percent of Olympic with leading bidder Axon Airlines, a small Greek carrier. Cyprus Airways, which is cooperating with Alitalia, was graded second out of the three bids, behind Axon, by privatization advisers CSFB. The government has said it wants to hold parallel talks with the three bidders but has so far negotiated only with Axon and has only asked the other two for clarifications.
"We responded to all the questions they have put to us," the IAS official said. "We also clarified the staffing issue, saying we would keep a maximum of 5,000 permanent and 2,500 seasonal staff."
IAS also revised its offer - it now wants to buy what the government is offering instead of 100 percent of the company with the option of selling 49 percent back to the state in future, he added.
The Australian firm, which had strongly protested at criticism of its bid as being too ambitious, said it had also presented Greece with its future management team.
"We had been criticized for our management plan so we gave them eight of the top names in the business," the source said.
The government has asked all three bidders to extend their letters of guarantee to October 31, as talks with Axon Airlines resumed after a summer break.
Axon President Thomas Liakounakos said early in August he expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the government next month and another 60 to 90 days of negotiations would follow before a final deal could be reached.
Sources close to the deal said the government wanted to keep all parties interested in the process while talks with Axon were at their most crucial stage.
The government, which sees Olympic as one of its biggest privatization tests, is banned by European Union law from subsidizing Olympic.
The airline, whose assets are estimated at about $275 million, is making losses of about $155 million a year.
[Taken from Friday's Kathimerini English Edition].