EasyJet wins unconditional European Union approval to buy Air Berlin assets

Gladys Abbott
December 14, 2017

Air Berlin, which was Germany's second-biggest airline, ended operations in late October.

The government said it expected only part of the loan could now be repaid and it would take steps to minimise losses for taxpayers.

The European Commission said Wednesday that Lufthansa's move was "regrettable" and that withdrawing the bid completely "was not the only possible outcome".

United Kingdom budget airline easyJet cleared a major regulatory hurdle on Tuesday as its proposed acquisition of airport slots and aircraft from Air Berlin was approved by the European Commission.

Niki's being grounded would add to Christmas period disruptions for European flyers, with the collapse of Britain's Monarch in October and with Ryanair hit by problems with pilots and facing strikes.

Niki added that several airlines "are now looking into solutions for bringing back passengers on standby-basis for a small fee from overseas destinations back to Germany, Austria and Switzerland".

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Air Berlin filed for insolvency earlier this year after years of financial difficulties, resulting in the sale of assets and rights previously held by the company.

Lufthansa said on Wednesday it had offered to give up take-off and landing slots in order to get the deal approved, but that the European Commission considered that to be insufficient.

The administrators said on Tuesday British Airways' parent IAG was no longer interested and talks with Thomas Cook had not yet resulted in a viable deal.

"Alternative buyers for Niki were and still are not available, despite all sorts of public announcements and intensive efforts by the chief representative of Air Berlin", it says in a statement. The carrier didn't specify terms for disposing of the slots, including any airlines that might obtain them.

The EU said it will continue to review Lufthansa's takeover of LGW.

Noting that Lufthansa still plans to complete the purchase of LGW, Air Berlin says the purchase price of approximately €18 million will be subject to adjustments upon closing of the transaction and "must be used essentially for a repayment of the priority loan granted by KfW". It has a deadline of December 21 to approve the deal or open a longer investigation.

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