BRUSSELS, March 26 Greece's Aegean Airlines
has offered concessions to try to win approval for its
second bid for rival Olympic Air, EU antitrust
regulators said on Tuesday, extending their review of the
takeover deal to April 23.
Aegean has said the 72-million-euro ($93 million) bid is key
to its survival in Greece's shrinking air transport market, as
the bailed-out country suffers a protracted recession.
The European Commission announced the new deadline for a
decision on its website, but did not give details of the
concessions offered, in line with its standard policy.
Aegean agreed to buy Olympic from Marfin Investment Group
(MIG) in October.
Some antitrust experts said its chances of winning clearance
may have improved due to its shrinking market share and the
recent addition of Cyprus Airways routes into Greece.
But that argument might be undermined by an investigation
opened by competition regulators earlier this month into state
aid granted to the Cypriot airline.
The Commission blocked Aegean's 170-million-euro first bid
two years ago to buy debt-ridden Olympic, because of the
dominance the group would have had on the domestic market.
And the Commission, which acts as competition regulator in
the 27-country European Union, last month rejected a third
attempt by Ryanair to buy Aer Lingus, again
citing the merged company's market dominance.
The only time the Commission has cleared a deal after
blocking it the first time was when packaging firm Tetra Laval
and rival Sidel won approval in 2003 after a court challenge.
Olympic, founded in 1957 by the late shipping magnate
Aristotle Onassis, went into a steady decline after being
operated for decades by the Greek government, saddling the state
budget with losses.
The tourism industry accounts for about one in five jobs in
Greece, making it a key part of economic recovery.
($1 = 0.7763 euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Mark Potter)