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REFILE 1ST LEAD Lufthansa invests 1.5 billion euros to buy large parts of Air Berlin By Andrew McCathie, dpa

Europe
12.10.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Berlin (dpa) - German airline Lufthansa is to buy large parts of insolvent rival Air Berlin, said Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr, with plans to invest 1.5 billion euros (1.8 billion dollars) into the takeover of the nation‘s second-biggest carrier.

Lufthansa and Air Berlin are to sign a contract later on Thursday to acquire sections of the embattled carrier, which filed for insolvency in August after its main shareholder, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, halted financial aid for the group.

"This is indeed a big day, which we‘re going to seal with a signature in a few hours," Spohr said, sending Air Berlin‘s shares rocketing up by 51 per cent in early morning trading on the Frankfurt Stock Market.

Investors believe that Lufthansa will profit from the debt-laden Air Berlin‘s breakup, driving up shares in the Cologne-based group by 2.4 per cent, to 25.6 euros, on the Frankfurt bourse even before Spohr‘s announcement.

Apart from Lufthansa, British budget carrier Easyjet was seen as the other major contender to take over the embattled airline, or parts of the group, which has more than 8,000 employees, 140 aircraft and key airport landing slots.

Spohr told the daily Rheinischen Post on Thursday that Lufthansa plans to invest 1.5 billion euros in taking over 81 Air Berlin aircraft - about half of the carrier‘s fleet - and hiring 3,000 of its employees.

Easyjet is negotiating with Air Berlin to possibly acquire the remaining 20 to 30 aircraft from the carrier, which last year ran up a loss of about 782 million euros and has debts totalling nearly 1.2 billion euros.

Air Berlin has already said that it is hopeful that 80 per cent of its employees will be able to find new jobs.

Spohr told the Rheinischen Post he did not believe Lufthansa‘s deal with Air Berlin would result in higher airfares. Instead, he saw ticket prices falling.

"The competition will intensify in both Europe and worldwide," he told the newspaper. "We are assuming further declines in prices," he said.

Air Berlin has kept flying since August as a result of the German government providing it with a bridging loan of 150 million euros.

However, on Monday, Air Berlin announced that it would end all flight services by October 28.

Flights operated by Air Berlin subsidiaries Niki and LG Walter, which are not insolvent, will continue indefinitely, the company said.

 

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