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"Flybe" plans expansion in Baltic countries

 TALLINN, March 13 - The Finnish business newspaper "Kauppalehti" has a news item that British airline "Flybe" is considering expansion on not only Estonian market, but also Latvia and Lithuania, BBN agency reports.

In Estonia, the airline is interested in taking over the market share of "Estonian Air" which has been struggling to remain in business.
Time is running out for "Estonian Air" since Estonia has asked the European Commission for permission to grant state aid to "Estonian Air", and if this is denied, it could effectively mean the end of "Estonian Air".

"Flybe" is already said to be in negotiations with "Estonian Air".

Since "airBaltic", in which the Latvian state has invested large amounts, is subject to a similar probe in Brussels, a similar case could unfold also in Latvia.

This could create a situation where both the Estonian and Latvian state would be interested to sell a large stake in their national airlines.

As for Lithuania, it has not had its own airline for years.

Last year "Flybe" attempted to buy Danish airline "Cimber Sterling", but lost to SAS.

The company also set up "Flybe Nordic", a joint venture with "Finnair", at the end of 2001 in which "Finnair" owns 40 percent.

Although "Flybe Nordic" has been making losses, it is now handling most of "Finnair's" local flights in Finland and even some of its European flights.
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