* Airline cannot make new payments without approval
* Malev to hold news conference later Thursday
* Morning flights departed on schedule -airport spokesman
BUDAPEST, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Hungarian flag-carrier Malev was placed under extraordinary protection from creditors and a receiver was appointed as the government prepares for a possible grounding of all flights, the Development Ministry said on Thursday.
The moves follow the government’s decision to prepare for possible stoppages of flights by the airline, which was ordered by the European Commission last month to repay millions of dollars worth of state aid received between 2007 and 2010.
A Malev spokeswoman said the airline would hold a news conference later on Thursday.
A spokesman for Budapest’s international airport said Malev’s morning flights had all departed on schedule.
The Development Ministry said on the basis of a Feb. 2 ruling by the Budapest Metropolitan Court that Malev could no longer make payments without the approval of a state receiver.
“Approval of the receiver will depend on whether the payment is necessary for the airline to perform its main function and continue business in an orderly manner,” the ministry said in a statement.
It added that the airline, which accounts for 40 percent of annual turnover at Budapest’s international airport, was placed under extraordinary protection from creditors.
“Counterparties cannot void or walk away from prior agreements entered into with Malev. The validity of the airline’s official licences are automatically extended.”
Malev’s management is working on a liquidity management plan which it has to finalise by the weekend.
Malev Chairman Janos Berenyi said earlier this week that management was in talks with a potential investor or investors to buy into Malev but did not give further details.
After failed privatisation attempts, Hungary in 2010 bought back all but a 5 percent stake in the carrier, which employs 2,600 people and posted a 2010 loss of 24.6 billion forints ($110 million). (Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)