European Union concerns over Air Berlin bid

14 December, 2017, 12:56 | Author: Lester Mason
  • Thousands of passengers affected by Niki airline's grounding

Air Berlin ended operations in late October, though Austria-based Niki continued flying.

While Lufthansa may thus have been able to cut its related losses on Wednesday, the sudden lack of a buyer for Niki remains highly inconvenient for German policymakers who granted Air Berlin an emergency credit facility of 150 million euros.

Lufthansa earlier today dropped its bid for Niki after saying the European Commission had indicated it would not now approve the acquisition on competition grounds.

Easyjet's move to expand its German services follows Air Berlin's collapse in August, which subsequently freed up airport landing slots. "This will hit employees especially hard".

The German government said it regrets the EU's stance and will do everything it can to limit the damage to taxpayers.

The Austrian transport ministry said it would repatriate any Niki passengers stranded overseas by cancelled flights.

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The warning comes a week after Lufthansa offered concessions to encourage the European Commission to green-light its planned purchase of parts of Air Berlin.

If Lufthansa's purchase of LGW can proceed the price will be around 18 million euros ($22 million), Air Berlin said, compared to a previous price of 210 million euros for the deal including Niki.

At least Air Berlin's insolvency administration is unlikely to face resistance from the European Union (EU) should they succeed in selling Niki to Thomas Cook at the last minute.

Niki has nearly 1,000 employees, and grounding the airline will result in tens of thousands of travelers being stranded, with hundreds of thousands of tickets becoming voided, Air Berlin said Tuesday.

"Following the failed acquisition of Niki by entities of the Deutsche Lufthansa group and as no other purchaser could be found at short notice, the management of Niki today filed with the local court of Berlin-Charlottenburg a petition for the opening of insolvency proceedings over the assets of Niki", Air Berlin says in a statement.

Niki Lauda said he was interested in buying the airline back. According to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), Frank Kebekus, Air Berlin's chief insolvency administrator, is now urgently attempting to negotiate a sale of Niki to British travel operator Thomas Cook in order to prevent the subsidiary's insolvency. It has a deadline of December 21 to approve the deal or open a longer investigation.



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