EU clears Ryanair for take-off on Laudamotion deal

Purchase of 75% of Austrian carrier founded by ex-F1 champion Niki Lauda approved

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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EU regulators have approved Irish airline Ryanair’s planned purchase of 75 per cent of Laudamotion, the Austrian carrier founded by triple Formula One champion, Niki Lauda.

Ryanair pledged last February to invest €100 million in Laudamotion and took a 24.9 per cent stake in the business, which it said would increase to 75 per cent once it got European Commission approval.

Brussels unconditionally approved the deal on Thursday. “The commission concluded that the transaction would raise no competition concerns in the European Economic Area,” a statement said.

Juliusz Komorek, Ryanair’s chief legal and regulatory officer, welcomed the news.

However, Ryanair accused German rival Lufthansa, which bought Laudamotion’s former parent, Air Berlin, of bidding to undermine the Austrian carrier.

Ryanair maintains that Lufthansa wanted to remove nine of the craft that it was obliged by the commission to deliver to Laudamotion once it bought Air Berlin.

Competition

Ryanair said that Laudamotion was only able to operate a fleet of 19 craft this summer because its Irish shareholder leased it 10 of its Boeing 737s.

“We urge the EU competition authorities to take action and prevent any further attempts by Lufthansa to damage competition through its anti-consumer behaviour,” Mr Komorek said.

He noted that Ryanair was committed to “bringing low fares” to Laudamotion’s markets in Austria, Spain and Germany.

Mr Lauda owns and chairs Laudamotion, which he founded as Niki Airline in 2003 before selling it to Air Berlin. He will own the other 25 per cent of the business.

In January, Mr Lauda bought back the assets, including several A320 aircraft, and renamed the business, scuppering a bid by Aer Lingus’s owner, International Airlines’ Group, which is led by Irishman Willie Walsh.

Ryanair is expected to retain the Laudamotion brand once the deal has been completed.

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