Greece to finalise airline sale

March 12, 2009

, ATHENS, Mar 12 – The sale of debt-ridden Greek carrier Olympic Airlines to the country\’s Marfin Investment Group will be completed by September, the government said on Wednesday.

In a deal already approved by the European Commission this week, MIG will acquire Olympic in stages while flights continue, outgoing staff are compensated and new hirings proceed, the government said.

"Olympic Airlines flights will continue to operate normally," the statement said as the state privatisation commission met on Wednesday to approve the sale, a day after the European Commission gave its blessing.

The Greek state, which bought the company from legendary Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, said last week it was selling it for 177.2 million euros to MIG and global ground handling firm Swissport.

MIG will acquire Olympic\’s flight operations and maintenance facilities while the Greek state is in talks with Swissport for OA\’s ground handling.

The talks have been extended to Friday but MIG is prepared to take over ground handling if the state fails to reach agreement with Swissport.

Thousands of OA staff have been offered compensation packages and other jobs in the Greek civil service.

The airline has long been the target of state aid concerns from the European Commission, which last year approved earlier privatisation plans while also demanding 850 billion euros (1.1 billion dollars) in public money to be recovered.

The European Commission on Tuesday said the new deal "does not raise state aid concerns," ending an epic standoff between Brussels and Athens over keeping the airline in business.

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