Ryanair will not bid for Air Berlin as­sets, says O’Leary

Irish Examiner - - Business -

Ryanair will not bid for any as­sets of in­sol­vent Ger­man air­line Air Berlin its chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael O’Leary said yes­ter­day, de­scrib­ing the process as “a stitch-up”.

Air Berlin, Ger­many’s sec­ond-largest air­line, filed for bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion this month after share­holder Eti­had Air­ways with­drew fund­ing after years of losses.

Mr O’Leary has com­plained that the in­sol­vency process was de­signed to help strengthen lead­ing Ger­man air­line Lufthansa.

“If there was a fair and open process we would get in­volved but we are not get­ting in­volved in this process be­cause it’s a stitch-up”, he told a news con­fer­ence in Berlin yes­ter­day, say­ing Ryanair had not been in con­tact with any­one from the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, Air Berlin or the ad­min­is­tra­tor.

Tak­ing his ar­gu­ment di­rectly to Berlin, Mr O’Leary said Ryanair had asked Ger­man and Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion au­thor­i­ties to in­ves­ti­gate what he said was a “con­spir­acy” be­tween Air Berlin, Lufthansa and the Ger­man gov­ern­ment which would lead to higher prices for con­sumers.

“[The in­sol­vency process] is de­signed to de­liver Air Berlin to Lufthansa some­time in the mid­dle of Septem­ber be­fore the Ger­man elec­tion,” he said.

Ger­many’s econ­omy min­istry has pre­vi­ously re­jected Ryanair’s claims that the in­sol­vency was staged. It has also said a bridg­ing loan of €150m the gov­ern­ment had granted Air Berlin did not breach com­pe­ti­tion rules.

Bid­ders for Air Berlin’s as­sets are rac­ing to sub­mit of­fers by a Septem­ber 15 dead­line, with around 140 leased air­craft and valu­able take­off and land­ing slots in Ger­many up for grabs.

Ger­many holds a na­tional elec­tion on Septem­ber 24.

Lufthansa, which has the Ger­man gov­ern­ment’s back­ing to take over ma­jor parts of Air Berlin, could ac­quire up to 90 of its planes, in­clud­ing 38 air­craft it is al­ready leas­ing from the air­line and its leisure unit Niki, a source told Reuters this month.

The UK’s Easyjet and Thomas Cook’s Con­dor could split the rest of the fleet be­tween them, me­dia re­ports have said, with Easyjet in­ter­ested in up to 40 planes and Con­dor a dou­ble-fig­ure num­ber.

For­mer mo­tor rac­ing driver Niki Lauda has ex­pressed in­ter­est in buy­ing back leisure unit Niki, which he founded, and avi­a­tion in­vestor Hans Ru­dolf Woehrl wants all of Air Berlin.

Air Berlin is be­ing kept in the air thanks to the gov­ern­ment loan, which it has said would last for up to three months.


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