Lufthansa gets further backing for Air Berlin move

Lufthansa has received more German government support in its bid to take over substantial assets of insolvent rival Air Berlin, with German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries saying she would welcome such a move.

“Lufthansa is already an aviation champion — its position can be strengthened further though,” she was quoted saying by German daily Handelsblatt yesterday. “There are many interested parties. But for competition reasons, no single airline can buy Air Berlin.”

Lufthansa, Germany’s top carrier, cannot buy all of Air Berlin because it would give it a dominant position in Germany. However, Lufthansa was first in line for the talks, ahead of other potential bidders. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has already complained that the process is going too quickly to give others a chance to bid.

Easyjet, Thomas Cook’s German airline Condor and tour operator TUI could also be among the interested parties. Buying parts of Air Berlin and taking on its staff would give successful bidders access to Air Berlin’s takeoff and landing slots at busy airports such as Dusseldorf and Berlin.

Negotiations over Air Berlin, which filed for insolvency last week and is being kept in the air with a government loan, took place at the weekend and are set to continue apace.

Chief executive Thomas Winkelmann was quoted as saying over the weekend that he hoped for a solution in September. He said Air Berlin had been in talks with more than 10 parties but ultimately the assets would likely be divided up among two or three buyers.

Meanwhile, Etihad Airways — which recently pulled funding from Air Berlin — has delayed the appointment of its new group chief executive to late 2017 with the hiring of a new boss nearly finalised.

In May, Ray Gammell was made interim chief executive to replace James Hogan who left at the beginning of July.

It is understood a new boss has been hired. “The recruitment of a new CEO is reaching its conclusion with the successful candidate expected to start no later than the beginning of 2018,” the airline said in a statement yesterday.



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