Transport: Cyprus, Ryanair a step closer to taking over CY

Eu to decide if government money given to airliner was state aid

(ANSAmed) - NICOSIA, NOVEMBER 4 - Low-cost airliner Ryanair has said it is one step closer to taking over Cyprus Airways (CY) after getting through to the second round of bidding for the ailing flag carrier at the weekend, as Cyprus Mail reports today citing the Irish Times.

Quoting the airline's incoming finance chief Neil Sorahan, the newspaper said Ryanair was informally told on Friday that it was on a shortlist, pushing it through to the second round of the process. Sorahan however said it was "still a long shot" and that Aegean Airlines was seen as the favourite. The Irish Time said Ryanair was not offering any cash for the airline, but had told the Cyprus government that if its bid succeeded, it would expand the airline from five aircraft and 700,000 passengers a year to 20 aircraft and three million passengers over five years. It added that the main attraction for Ryanair was CY's air operator's certificate (AOC), which allows it to fly to Israel, Russia and countries around the eastern Mediterranean, where the Irish company was keen to expand.

As representatives from Ryanair and Aegean met with government officiald on Friday, CY employees took to the streets in fear for their future. CY's future remains in limbo ahead of a European Commission decision on whether amounts in excess of 100 million euros given to the airline by the government in recent years constitutes state aid - forbidden by EU competition law - and must be paid back, a decision that would instantly trigger the company's insolvency. (ANSAmed).