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Swissair announces sale of Swissport

British investment firm Candover has acquired Swissport from the Swissair Group Keystone Archive

The Swissair Group has announced the sale of its cargo-handling unit, Swissport, to British investors for SFr580 million ($344.42 million).

As expected, the British equity group, Candover Investments, has acquired the Swissair Group subsidiary.

Swissport spokesman Stephan Beerli said Candover Investments would pay SFr274 million, while a consortium of banks, led by the Royal Bank of Scotland, would provide the balance of SFr306 million.

Beerli added that no job losses were expected at Swissport, which employs 13,000 people and had sales of SFr1.2 billion in 2001.

Sale delayed

The sale was agreed several weeks ago but was delayed pending the approval of the court-appointed Swissair administrator.

Swissport is the world’s second largest ground handling agent, operating in 23 countries at 130 airports and servicing more than 550 airlines worldwide.

The company was recently named “Global Ground Handling Company of the Year” by the Institute of Transport Management.

Candover, which describes itself as “a leading buyout specialist”, said in a statement that it would retain the existing Swissport management team led by Joseph In Albon.

Excellent prospects

“We are backing a management team that is widely regarded as one of the best in the industry. In their hands the business has excellent prospects for the future, through a combination of strategic acquisitions and organic growth,” said In Albon.

On Tuesday, the Swissair Group announced it had signed a preliminary agreement to sell its airline catering company, Gate Gourmet, to the private United States equity firm, Texas Pacific Group.

Swissair said it had signed a memorandum of understanding on the sale but did not announce a figure for the deal, which is expected to be completed in the first quarter.

It said in a statement that “a considerable number” of investors had expressed interest in acquiring the company.

Bankruptcy protection

Swissair, which has been operating under court-ordered bankruptcy protection since October, is in the process of selling of a number of assets.

It has also been trying to sell Nuance, the world’s largest airport retailing operation, but has so far failed to secure an offer.

Swissair collapsed last year after announcing a loss of SFr2.9 billion ($1.7 billion) for 2000. Weighed down by massive debts, the company was unable to ride out the downturn in air traffic following the September 11 attacks in the United States.

What remains of Swissair flight operations will be incorporated into the operations of regional carrier Crossair to form a new national airline. The new airline is being launched officially on April 1 under the name “swiss”.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR