Marfin Interested in Olympic Airlines

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s biggest buyout fund Marfin Investment Group (MIG) said it was interested in Olympic Airlines on Thursday after a tender to privatise the loss-making national carrier collapsed.

The government had appealed on Wednesday to Greek businessmen to step in after it announced the much-heralded privatisation process failed to attract satisfactory bids.

“MIG decided to respond to the Greek privatisation committee’s call and is ready to come to direct talks so that Olympic can continue to operate as a Greek enterprise,” MIG said in a bourse filing.

MIG said Olympic’s survival was crucial for the country’s tourism, jobs and Greece’s image abroad. It said that it would be willing to grant the government the ability to re-nationalise Olympic three months after the next elections.

“Our intention is to buy and keep Olympic within the group,” MIG Vice Chairman Andreas Vgenopoulos told Reuters. “The rest of our proposals aim at securing the widest political and social consensus which is necessary for a successful outcome.”

Greece has wrangled for years with Brussels over state aid to Olympic. Its latest attempt to sell the carrier was approved by the European Commission, which agreed to suspend action over illegal state aid if the sale went ahead.

To help the sale Athens split loss-making Olympic into three units — flying, ground handling, aircraft maintenance — last September. Still, no big players showed up with offers to buy Olympic when the deadline for binding bids expired last week.

“This (MIG) proposal, like any other of its kind, will be seriously examined,” Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis told reporters on Thursday.

MIG’s major shareholder is Dubai Financial Group. (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Erica Billingham)