Ireland's Ryanair and Greece's Aegean Airlines are among more than 15 applicants who have made a non-binding expression of interest to buy loss-making Cypriot flag-carrier Cyprus Airways, officials said Thursday.
"The interest has surpassed our expectations but we need to point out that, at the present stage, we are simply recording that interest, so it doesn't mean that the interest will be followed up by a bid," Communications Minister Marios Demetriades told state radio Thursday.
"Aegean and Ryanair have announced their interest and there are other smaller airlines which have expressed their interest as well, but most interested parties are not airlines," he said.
He said the applicants will be evaluated at a later stage and will be called to submit binding offers by the autumn.
Reportedly, other firms who expressed an interest in buying Cyprus Airways assets include Israel-based Arkia, Romania’s no-frills Blue Air, Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, as well as Spanish Group Arevenca in collaboration with Fly Aruba.
The Cypriot government, which owns 93 percent of Cyprus Airways, set the deadline for non-binding expressions of interest in shares or assets at midnight (2100 GMT) Wednesday.
The national carrier has been selling assets to keep flying, including three time slots at London's Heathrow airport.
Cyprus Airways is struggling to survive against intense competition on its most popular routes to Greece and London.
It has undergone several cost-cutting plans – axing staff, scrapping routes and downsizing its fleet -- but failed to stem losses.
It is also under investigation by the European Commission to see if it violated state aid rules in a 31 million euro share capital increase and a 73 million euro bailout from the state in the past two years.
The airline posted a net loss of 55.8 million euros for 2012, more than double the net loss of 23.88 million the previous year.
Operating losses almost doubled to 49.7 million euros from 25.5 million.