EU Signs Off On Easyjet Takeover Of Air Berlin Assets

14 December, 2017, 12:56 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • AFP  Getty Images

Nevertheless, Lufthansa continued to pursue the simultaneous acquisition of Niki, as well as separate Air Berlin subsidiary LG Walter and the lion share of the mother corporation.

The European Commission called the current uncertainty for Niki employees and passengers "regrettable", and said it resulted from Air Berlin's insolvency, as well as Lufthansa's decision to drop the Austrian carrier from its proposed deal. The German government was also relying on a Lufthansa purchase to help repay a 150 million-euro ($176 million) loan it had advanced to keep Air Berlin from being grounded in August.

"(From a financial point of view), this leads to a comparable result for the Lufthansa Group", it said.

"The government will do everything it can to limit the damage to the tax payer", he added. "Insolvency and grounding of Niki are now the result", government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in an emailed statement. This is especially hard for the employees.

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

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.

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

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. Air Berlin in 2004 first bought a stake in Niki, founded a year earlier by Formula One champion Niki Lauda, and in 2010 purchased the majority of the airline.

"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.

easyJetis paying 40 million euros for Air Berlin's operations at Berlin Tegel, a deal which has received Commission approval.

Lufthansa said on Wednesday it still meant to pursue growth plans for its Eurowings budget subsidiary and would apply for any Niki slots that become free in the event of an insolvency.

Furthermore, Niki would lose their highly-prized starting and landing rights at German airports. It has a deadline of December 21 to approve the deal or open a longer investigation.

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