Air Berlin to hold carve-up talks with Lufthansa and easyJet
Talks over assets such as aircraft maintenance unit to continue with other bidders
Air Berlin said negotiations with Lufthansa and easyJet would continue until October 12th.
Air Berlin’s creditors have picked German flagship carrier Lufthansa and Britain’s easyJet as possible buyers for the insolvent carrier’s aviation business and will negotiate with them for the next three weeks.
“Authority was granted to conclude one or more agreements with one or more of these bidders,” Air Berlin said in a statement late on Thursday.
Talks over its other Air Berlin assets, such as its aircraft maintenance unit, will continue with other bidders, it said.
Air Berlin, which has about 8,000 employees and operates 144 mostly leased aircraft, filed for insolvency in August after major shareholder Etihad pulled the plug on funding.
Two sources familiar with the matter had said on Thursday that Lufthansa was set to pick up a large part of the carrier.
Lufthansa’s chief executive said earlier that the carrier wanted to secure the 38 crewed aircraft it leases from Air Berlin, and was interested in a further 20-40 short-haul aircraft.
Air Berlin said negotiations with Lufthansa and easyJet would continue until October 12th, which means Air Berlin’s board may not make a final decision on September 25th as had been expected.
The news comes ahead of a national election on Sunday in which Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to win a fourth term.
At a rally in the western city of Neuss, where dozens of Air Berlin workers wearing fluorescent yellow crew jackets joined Merkel supporters, the chancellor said: “There are pilots from Air Berlin that we of course wish all the best to, like all people who have a job and would like to keep it.”
The prospect of getting access to Air Berlin’s airport slots, aircraft and crews had drawn interest from those airlines and other investors, including former Formula One driver Niki Lauda, jointly with Thomas Cook’s German airline Condor, and aviation entrepreneur Hans Rudolf Woehrl.
Also, two people familiar with the matter had said earlier this week that British Airways owner IAG had joined the field of bidders for parts or all of Air Berlin.
Bidders had been especially interested in Air Berlin subsidiary Niki, which operates short-haul flights from Germany and Austria to tourist hot spots.
The deadline for bids for its maintenance unit, which has about 850 employees, has been extended to October 6th, Air Berlin said.
Lufthansa declined to comment further on Thursday. EasyJet declined to comment and Condor was not immediately available for comment.