Aegean submits non-binding offer for Cyprus Airways

Greece’s Aegean was among companies that submitted non-binding offers for the acquisition of Cyprus Airways, Cyprus’s transport minister told Reuters on Wednesday.

Ryanair, Europe’s largest budget airline, was also among companies to submit a non-binding offer.

Marios Demetriades said “more than half” of the 15 parties that earlier made an initial expression of interest and signed a non-disclosure agreement had submitted non-binding business proposals by the time the deadline expired on Wednesday evening.

“I would say the response is encouraging, but we have to assess the non-binding proposals to see what they contain,” Demetriades said.

The Cypriot state, which owns more than 90 percent of Cyprus Airways, invited companies to submit expressions of interest in July. Loss-making Cyprus Airways has struggled to survive against cheaper competitors for years despite several attempts at a turnaround.

About a third of the parties that submitted non-binding business proposals were airlines, Demetriades said.

A government-appointed commission will now assess the proposals and decide which parties would be short-listed and invited to submit binding offers, he said.

Cyprus Airways 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, which is investigating the terms of a 73 million euro rescue package in 2012 and a 31.3 million euro capital increase in early 2013 to establish whether they violated state aid rules.

The EU rules permit a government to provide rescue and restructuring aid to a company in difficulty once over a period of 10 years. Cyprus Airways previously received government aid in 2007.