By Constantinos Psillides
The Cyprus Airways (CY) board of directors sent an open letter to president Nicos Anastasiades yesterday, claiming that they are being kept in the dark regarding the negotiations for a strategic investor and that the state was ignoring investors so it could shut the company down.
The negotiations are being handled by a ministerial committee comprised of Finance minister Harris Georgiades, Commerce, Industry and Energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis and Communications and Works minister Marios Demetriades.
In the letter, leaked by daily Phileleftheros, six of the nine board members express their worry and discontent for being excluded from the negotiations, adding that they will not agree to disclose confidential company data to the companies interested in investing in CY.
While not officially confirmed, it was widely reported that the short-list of investors has come down to only Ryanair and Aegean Air, both rival airlines to CY. In a letter sent on November 7, chairman Makis Constantinides asked the board to authorise handing over to Ryanair all information regarding CY’s operations, so the low-cost carrier can asses the value of CY and submit a business plan as a potential investor. The board claims that this is a “clear indication that the state has already decided to shut CY down and sell it off to the highest bidder.”
Both Ryanair and Aegean are options that don’t appeal to the staff, since the consensus among the employees is that massive layoffs and wage cuts will follow a successful bid by any one of those two companies.
In the same letter, the board members accuse the ministerial committee of ignoring bids by other companies who – as they claim – “offered to keep the staff and further invest in the company.”
Regarding CY’s EU woes – the company is waiting for a decision on whether amounts in excess of €100m given by the government in recent years constitutes state aid and must be paid back, a decision that would instantly bankrupt the national carrier – the board members suggest in their letter that the decision doesn’t have to be a death sentence.
“The EU doesn’t want to shut the company down. There are examples from other EU countries with national carriers that were faced with financial crises but pulled through with the help and guidance of the EU,” say the board members, blaming the government for not pursuing this course of action.
CY unions, during meetings with all parliamentary parties last week, claimed that the government dragged its feet and didn’t put up too much of a fight so the company could be closed down by the EU.
The board demanded to be present during the government officials’ meetings with the EU officials on the matter.
“We hope that we are not the company’s last board of directors and that you are not the last head of state that has a national carrier,” read the letter.