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Germany's Lufthansa drops bid for Air Berlin's Niki unit

14 December, 2017, 14:55 | Author: Melinda Barton
  • Niki Lauda Fly Niki Airlines

This is especially hard for the employees.

The commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, said Tuesday that Easyjet's plans will not reduce competition.

Vestager previously said that, given its dominant position in domestic air travel, Lufthansa might have to give up certain routes in exchange for approval.

Air Berlin said in a statement Tuesday that prospective buyers IAG had withdrawn their interest in Niki, while there was also no workable offer from Thomas Cook, leaving Lufthansa as the group's only option for sale.

A halt to Niki's services would add to Christmas-season air-travel disruptions across Europe, after United Kingdom leisure carrier Monarch Airlines folded in October.

EasyJet plans to take over the leases of up to 25 Air Berlin A320s and take over its slots in Berlin, where it will compete with Lufthansa. Spokesman Martin Leutke said it isn't yet clear how a planned investment budget of about 1 billion euros will change, but it won't be the same, and Lufthansa is planning to move forward without the Niki aircraft.

In the wake of the failed Niki pursuit, Lufthansa is offering to relinquish "numerous slots" to gain clearance for the purchase of Air Berlin turboprop operator LGW, officially known as Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter.

Furthermore, Niki would lose their highly-prized starting and landing rights at German airports.

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.

"It was clear from the start that Lufthansa and Air Berlin overlap on a very significant number of routes, with clear risks to Austrian, Germans and Swiss consumers and to effective competition", the Commission said. It will instead focus on submitting revised concessions to the Commission with a view to completing its acquisition of another Air Berlin unit, LGW.

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.



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