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Ryanair bid for Cyprus opens up Middle East

Ryanair has announced it will bid for Cyprus Airways.

As had been anticipated, the airline will make the bid ahead of tomorrow's deadline and is expected to be among up to 15 bidders.

Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs confirmed a non-binding bid would be submitted tomorrow. He said the company had had a "successful meeting" with government and aviation officials in Cyprus last week.

Mr Jacobs added that the field of potential buyers had been whittled down to just a handful and said the Cypriot authorities were "keen on Ryanair", given its proven track record.

He said buying the airline would make "good sense", and open up passenger channels in the region as well as from the Middle East.

Airline boss Michael O'Leary was on the island last week to submit a proposal to the government that would involve the acquisition of all or part of Cyprus Airways, which has seen its annual traffic volumes plummet to about 600,000 from three million a few years ago.

Mr O'Leary said he believes Ryanair could help put Cyprus Airways and the island's tourism sector "back on a path of a very much renewed and rapid growth, with new routes, more flights and new jobs for pilots, cabin crew and engineers".

The Cypriot government owns 94pc of Cyprus Airlines, which has already received more than €100m in state aid. Mr O'Leary said earlier that under the terms of a takeover agreement, the Cyprus Airways brand would have to be retained. The carrier operates just six aircraft.

He also said he hopes something will come of Ryanair's interest in Cyprus Airways, but warned the outcome isn't certain.

"It's a very political process down there," he said.