By Michele Kambas
ALMOST 20 companies have submitted non-binding expressions of interest in Cyprus Airways , a state-owned carrier that the government wants to privatise, Communications Minister Marios Demetriades said on Thursday.
Aegean Airlines, Ryanair and Israel’s Arkia were among those firms, Demetriades told Reuters.
Romanian low-cost carrier Blue Air said it had also submitted an expression of interest, which is a preliminary step before authorities invite binding bids.
“At least 25 percent of those companies which submitted an expression of interest are related to aviation companies,” Demetriades said.
Interested parties will now be invited to submit binding offers after they are vetted by the government’s consultants. “Our objective is to proceed as fast as possible,” Demetriades said.
The expressions of interest exceeded expectations, but authorities will be able to say more “when we see offers”, Demetriades said.
Cypriot authorities had earlier said they hoped the sale could be concluded by the end of the year.
The state invited companies to submit expressions earlier this month. It owns more than 90 percent of Cyprus Airways, a carrier which has struggled to survive against cheaper competitors and has been loss-making for years despite several attempts at a turnaround.
The airline has recently resorted to selling assets to stay afloat, including its slots at London’s Heathrow airport.
It is also under scrutiny by the European Commission. Brussels is presently investigating terms of a 31.3 million euro capital increase in early 2013, and a 73 million euro rescue package by the Cypriot state in 2012 to establish whether it violated state aid rules.
Under state aid rules, a company in difficulty can receive rescue and restructuring aid once over a period of 10 years. Cyprus Airways previously received government aid in 2007. (Reuters)