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His Highness the Aga Khan Offers Airline for Sale

By Nation Correspondent

His Highness the Aga Khan has offered his majority stake in an Italian airline for sale.

This will enable the airline, Meridiana, to seek a strategic partner to strengthen its competitiveness in the market. Meridiana is Italy's second largest privately owned airline after Alitalia.

Born in 1963, to serve Costa Smeralda integrated resort, the Sardinia based airline has grown from an eight-seater Beechcraft to a 21 jet airline serving both Italian and European destinations. The resort was developed by the Aga Khan.

The Aga Khan has decided that the airline has reached a stage in its development where it needs a strong business alliance in order to secure its future development.

He has therefore decided to offer his 79 per cent controlling stake in the airline in order to encourage the widest possible interest especially from European airlines.

Meridiana has a positive track record of expansion. Last year, it ferried more than three million passengers for a turnover of nearly $330 million. It recently upgraded its fleet which now comprises of 17 MD-820s and 4 BAe 146-200s.

The airline, based in Olbia Costa Smeralda airport, Sardinia, recently constructed a new hangar in Olbia to improve efficiency in addition to maintenance capacities in both Olbia and Florence. The new hangar will begin operating next month.

The Aga Khan made a significant contribution in the creation of a vibrant tourism-based industry in Sardinia with Meridiana being a key element.

However, he has in the recent past, cut back his personal involvement in tourism in Italy, focusing instead on institutional expansion of the Aga Khan Development Network in social, economic and cultural sectors in Africa and south and central Asia.

KPMG corporate finance and Lloyds TSB Bank of London will negotiate with interested parties on behalf of the Aga Khan.

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