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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 15:41 GMT
Decision on Lufthansa offer looms
Lufthansa and Swiss aircraft on the runway
The government wants to retain the Swiss brand in any takeover
German airline Lufthansa will know on Tuesday, 22 March, whether it has been given the green light in its takeover bid for struggling rival Swiss.

Swiss banks, the Swiss government and Zurich authority together hold around 50% of Swiss shares.

Corporates hold 36% of the shares but most have written-off their investment.

The Swiss government is deciding whether to back the bid, which would then allow Lufthansa to make an offer for the 14% of shares in "free-float".

'Strategic alternatives'

Lufthansa has said that if the bid is approved, it will then submit an offer to small shareholders "based on the average share price of recent weeks".

This could be valued at about 50 million to 60 million euros ($67m-$80m, 34.7m-41.6m).

"The cabinet is evaluating the Lufthansa offer and the strategic alternatives for Swiss from the point of view of transportation policy, economic and financial aspects," the Swiss finance ministry said in a statement.

The government want a deal that secures the future of airports in Zurich, Basel and Geneva, and retains the brand Swiss.

Swiss was created from the shell of collapsed predecessor Swissair in 2002, with the help of some 2.7bn Swiss francs ($3.6bn; 1.9bn) in fresh financing including some money from the state.

It has yet to make a profit since its creation.

Board meetings

The government stake is administered by the finance ministry, which also has a board seat at Swiss.

Large shareholders include large banks UBS and Credit Suisse, as well as major Swiss companies such as drugmakers Novartis and Roche, and food giant Nestle.

Swiss and Lufthansa are to hold separate board meetings on Tuesday and the government will make its decision after those meetings.

There is growing opposition to the sale in the Swiss parliament, but the government says it has no plans to involve the legislature.

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