Lithuania's main airline, FlyLAL, to cease operations

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Lithuania's main airline, FlyLAL, is to cease operations after a plan to sell the carrier to external investors collapsed.

It will file for bankruptcy in the next few days if no proposals to rescue the company are put forward.

FlyLAL's fleet of about a dozen aircraft comprises a mix of Boeing 737-300/500 and 757-200 jets, plus Saab 2000 turboprops.

It states that it has debts of Lt90 million ($35 million). Its shareholders are the primary creditors, with loans of Lt47.5 million. FlyLAL employs 360 personnel.

The carrier had stated last week that an investor identified as Swiss Capital Holdings was intending to acquire the entire company.

But FlyLAL claims today that the investor "did not fulfil its obligations" to transfer funds within an agreed time period, and says it "cannot secure the continuity of its operations and satisfy the demands of its creditors".

FlyLAL emerged from the privatisation of national carrier Lithuanian Airlines in 2005. The carrier will operate its last flight - from Amsterdam - today, and stop operations on 17 January.

Chief executive Vytautas Kaikaris says: "We decided that ceasing operations is the only possible decision in the current circumstances.

"This decision is triggered by the intention not to increase damage and worsen the conditions of the airline's creditors."

The carrier adds that "unfair" market conditions - high fuel prices and a fleet which did not match falling demand, particularly over the winter - adversely affected its business.

"We sincerely regret that the current situation has led to this painful decision and no other solution was found," says Kaikaris.

FlyLAL has started proceedings to cancel the sale to Swiss Capital Holdings, whose Internet site gives few solid details about the company's activities despite its claim to hold a portfolio of several firms.