For­mer F1 cham­pion Niki Lauda eyes parts of Air Ber­lin

Weekend Mirror - - CHILDREN’S CORNER -

Three-

time For­mula One world cham­pion Niki Lauda said he has part­nered with hol­i­day firm Thomas Cook’s Ger­man air­line Con­dor to make a bid worth around 100 mil­lion eu­ros ($119 mil­lion) for 38 Air Ber­lin leased air­craft.

Air Ber­lin, Ger­many’s sec­ond largest air­line, filed for in­sol­vency last month af­ter ma­jor share­holder Eti­had with­drew fund­ing fol­low­ing years of losses.

Ad­min­is­tra­tors are now seek­ing to sell the business, with bids due to be sub­mit­ted by Friday. A de­ci­sion on the bids will be taken on Sept. 25, the day af­ter Ger­many’s na­tional elec­tion and four days later than planned, Air Ber­lin said on Thurs­day.

Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s govern­ment last month granted a 150 mil­lion- euro loan to pre­vent Air Ber­lin’s planes from be­ing grounded, which would have stranded hol­i­day­mak­ers abroad and put around 8,000 jobs at risk.

Most po­ten­tial in­vestors are seen as be­ing in­ter­ested pri­mar­ily in Air Ber­lin’s roughly 140 leased air­craft and its air­port land­ing and take-off slots rather than its op­er­at­ing business or em­ploy­ees.

Lauda holds a 51 per­cent stake in a con­sor­tium with Con­dor which will bid for 21 leased Air­bus A320 and A321 planes op­er­ated by Air Ber­lin’s Niki - the hol­i­day air­line which Lauda once owned - and 17 Air Ber­lin air­craft, he told Aus­trian newspaper Kurier on Wed­nes­day.

Asked how much he was will­ing to pay, Lauda told ORF ra­dio on Thurs­day: “It de­pends very much on how the de­tails are de­fined, but we are now of­fer­ing around 100 mil­lion (eu­ros).”

Thomas Cook CEO Peter Fankhauser de­clined to com­ment. The com­pany has pre­vi­ously said it is look­ing to play an ac­tive role in the Air Ber­lin sale.

Two sources close to Con­dor cau­tioned, how­ever, that no joint bid had yet been sub­mit­ted.

One of them said such an of­fer was un­likely to ma­te­ri­al­ize while the other source said that Con­dor re­mained in­ter­ested in a dou­ble-digit num­ber of planes, in­clud­ing ones for long-haul routes.

Aus­trian-based Niki has lower costs than Air Ber­lin and ear­lier this year it took over fly­ing on pop­u­lar routes from Ger­many to tourist des­ti­na­tions in Spain.

Lauda and Con­dor would f ace com­pe­ti­tion f r om Lufthansa, Ger­many’s largest air­line.

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