Former F1 champion Niki Lauda eyes parts of Air Berlin
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.