It's in the baggage for ailing Swissair

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The Independent Online

At last, good news is expected for the creditors of the bankrupt airline Swissair. Next week a deal is to be signed with the private equity firm Candover Investments to buy its baggage-handling business.

Swissport operates in 130 airports, including Heathrow, Paris and New York. The deal with Candover has been on the table for some time but 11 September halted the proceedings. Now the business plan has been revised and the price lowered and they are almost ready to sign.

The original price under discussion was believed to be around £200m. But this will probably drop as the aviation industry reverberates to the terrorist attacks.

"We are in the final round to complete the legal issues but we expect to sign next week," said a spokesperson for Swissport. He would not comment on the price of the deal. He said the the US attacks and the bankruptcy of Swissair have had some impact on the business, but "it is not dramatic". Swissport, he added, was still profitable. Last year the business had sales of $700m (£480m) and employed 13,000 people worldwide, including over 800 in the UK.

A spokesperson for Candover declined to comment. The private equity firm has been in exclusive talks with Swissair for some time, although in the early stages Menzies Group, the airport and news distribution company, was thought to be interested.

A Swiss court must approve the deal because Swissair asked for protection from creditors at the beginning of October, around the same time as the Belgian airline Sabena went bust.

A fortnight ago Swissair was granted a six-month moratorium on its debt, which should allow it to transfer some of its airline operations to Crossair, a part of Swissair that will live on.

There has been controversy over Swiss government involvement. It has joined with UBS Warburg and Credit Suisse to pump £1.9bn into the company, but the EU has expressed concerns over the issue of state aid.

Last week Swissair announced it had sold an airport services group to Lufthansa for an undisclosed price.