Gus Vlassis/ATHENS

Cyprus Airlines and privately owned Axon Airlines of Greece are on a shortlist of four chosen by the Greek Government as potential investors in flag-carrier Olympic Airways. Meanwhile, sources within private Greek carriers Aegean Airlines and Cronus Airlines say the two airlines are close to agreeing a merger.

The two other bidders still in the running for a stake in loss-making Olympic are Greek shipowner Restis and Australian venture capital group Integrated Airlines Solutions. The Cyprus Airlines-led consortium includes shipowners N and G Vernikos, while KLM is understood to have expressed an interest in joining the grouping.

A further two bidders, US Daimler/Chrysler Aviation and the Japanese bank Sanwa, were excluded from the shortlist, while Aegean and Cronus withdrew a joint offer earlier in the bidding process. Senior sources at the latter two carriers said they are now planning a merger. Aegean is already Greece's second largest carrier, having taken over Air Greece last year.

The shortlisted bidders for Olympic must submit offers this month, after which due diligence will commence, before the submission of binding proposals by 15 April. A stake of between 51% and 65% is due to be sold, either in the mainline airline operation alone, or in the Olympic group, including regional subsidiary Olympic Aviation and Olympic Catering.

The Greek Government has postponed the opening of the new Athens Spata Airport until 28 March. It was due to open on 1 March, but suffered delays in the completion of work on navigation aids, radio aids and infrastructure connecting it with central Athens. The delay has sparked a major political row in Greece.

Source: Flight International