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Swissair's Atraxis sees light at end of runway

Atraxis is one of three Swissair subsidiaries which are in dire financial straits since the collapse of the airline Keystone

The information technology unit of the collapsed Swissair Group, Atraxis, says it is close to concluding a sale for most parts of the company.

This content was published on October 31, 2001 - 19:59

Atraxis is one of three Swissair subsidiaries which are in dire financial straits since the collapse of the airline - their main customer - earlier this month.

Stefan Laser, a member of the Atraxis executive board said on Wednesday that "very intensive" negotiations were taking place with a final shortlist of two possible buyers.

Negotiations were scheduled for completion in the next few weeks, with the sale expected to be closed by the end of the year.

Leser declined to identify the potential buyers or to say whether the IT division of Germany's Lufthansa was among them. Atraxis had been slated for a merger with the Lufthansa Systems Group before the Swissair's collapse earlier this month.

Leser said the buyer would not necessarily acquire all of Atraxis, but that large chunks of its operations would be sold, both in Switzerland and abroad.

Cash crunch

A deal would help Atraxis find bridge financing to see it through a cash shortage of up to SFr50 million ($30.73 million), widely expected by mid-month.

The sale of Atraxis needs the approval of the Swissair Group board as well as the court-appointed provisional administrator of the parent and five of its subsidiaries which obtained a debt moratorium in early October.

Atraxis itself is not under creditor protection.

Government cuts purse strings

The Swiss government repeated on Wednesday that it would not go beyond paying SFr1 billion ($600 million) towards a SFr4.24 billion package put together last week by Bern and the Swiss business community to launch a new national airline.

The government's contribution is aimed at keeping Swissair's fleet in the air until the end of March when a new airline built around the regional carrier, Crossair, would take over.

The sale of Atraxis still leaves two other Swissair subsidiaries - the SR Technics maintenance company and the ground-handling unit Swissport - facing a cash crunch.

Peter Siegenthaler, director of the Swiss finance ministry, said on Tuesday that the government expected private industry to help the subsidiaries stay afloat, and that it wanted a clear signal soon.

If SR Technics were to go under, it could force a second grounding of Swissair because the company is responsible for maintaining the airline fleet.

The fleet was forced to stay on the ground for 48 hours earlier this month when Swissair was unable to pay for kerosene and landing fees.

Swissair winding down

Siegenthaler said it was up to the cantons and banks to come up with a solution. He added that a special task force set up to oversee the winding down of Swissair was suggesting the subsidiaries be scaled down and sold.

The task force meeting was called following a warning at the weekend from the head of SR Technics, Hans Ulrich Beyeler, that Swissair planes could be grounded for a second time because of a lack of maintenance facilities.

Siegenthaler said SR Technics needed SFr40 million ($24.55 million) by the middle of next month, and similar amounts for December and January to keep afloat. He added that Atraxis needed between SFr35 and SFr50 million by the end of the month.

He outlined two possible sources of finance - a guarantee from the Zurich cantonal government, which would require approval by the cantonal parliament and possibly local voters - and the banks.

He said that in addition the company running Zurich Airport, Unique, could also step in to provide some money.

swissinfo with agencies

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