30 August, 2003
The government on Friday tabled an amendment in Parliament for the creation of a new national carrier, with the envisioned "Olympic Airlines" to replace debt-ridden Olympic Airways.
The former is expected to inherit all of the state-owned group's flight operations after the merger between Olympic Airways, Olympic Aviation and OA's charter subsidiary, Macedonian Airlines.
Under the bill, Olympic Airways will be broken into separate and independent companies up for privatization, leaving the national carrier with only flight operations.
Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, and Transports Minister Christos Verelis said the new OA would employ 1,850 staff, and would operate with a 45 percent reduction in labour costs.
Christodoulakis also stressed that the new company, relieved from the massive financial burdens of the past, would be viable, reliable and attractive to investors, as the government aimed to sell more than 51 percent of the company to private investors.
''Privatization could be made either through the sale of shares to investors, or by increasing the new company's share capital,'' he said.
Olympic Airlines will have an initial capital of 140 million euros, it will operate a fleet of 44 aircraft and will maintain Olympic Airways logo.
The amendment will be discussed in Parliament next week and the government expects to have signed a ministerial decree for the creation of the new company in around two months.
The two ministers said Olympic Airlines would service around five million passengers a year and stressed that maintenance, cargo, ground services would be offered by the group's other companies for at least three years.
They noted that the government would seek a restructuring of all subsidiaries, burdened with deficits exceeding 140 million euros, in order to have the companies ready for privatization. Additionally, Christodoulakis said the 2002 balance sheet would have a small deficit of around 3-4 million euros.
He and Verelis stressed that the plan was fully compatible with EU and national legislation and did not necessitate any state support, direct or indirect. Moreover, both ministers said the Greek government was regularly briefing the European Community over its program to restructure and privatize the national carrier.
Source: Athens News Agency