The collapsed Swissair Group has announced the sale of one if its remaining major assets, the Nuance Group, to an Italian buyer.
The PAM retail group is to buy Nuance - the world's biggest airport retailer - for an undisclosed amount. Under the terms of the deal, Nuance will become a 100 per cent subsidiary of PAM.
The group will continue to operate as an independent business unit under its current management team led by CEO Peter Petersen.
The sale of Nuance marks the end of SAirRelations, the Swissair group division that was active in catering, hotels and the retail business. The proceeds of the sale are intended to go to Swissair's creditors.
The Nuance Group, formed in 1992 from the duty-free operations of Swissair and regional carrier Crossair, operates 370 stores in 19 countries, with a staff of 5,150.
Stefanel - partnership?
The unlisted PAM said in a statement that it had offered the Italian fashion group, Stefanel, a partnership in the deal with an option to buy up to 50 per cent of Nuance.
Stefanel commented that it would consider the option "with great attention".
Nuance said it expected the deal to be finalised in the second quarter, subject to receiving approval from regulatory authorities, the court-appointed Swissair administrator and Swiss bankruptcy courts.
Consolidated sales at Nuance totalled SFr1.7 billion ($1.03 billion) in 2001, with total sales, including joint ventures, reaching SFr2 billion.
The chairman and CEO of the Swissair Group, Mario Corti, said Nuance had built up a reputation as the industry leader in the development of airport retail business.
"We are happy that the new shareholder will continue to support the strategy which has led to this success," he said.
Nuance CEO Petersen said the company was "delighted" to have found a new shareholder who had given full support to its travel retail strategy.
"We are confident that together we will be able to exploit many of the opportunities this exciting market has to offer," he commented.
Among the key assets still remaining under Swissair Group control are SR Technics (aircraft maintenance) and Avireal (real estate).
swissinfo with agencies