Lufthansa scraps deal for Air Berlin's Niki

Niki Lauda Fly Niki Airlines

Air Berlin had already warned that Lufthansa's was the only "viable" bid for Niki and that the carrier would have to file for bankruptcy if the European Commission failed to clear the acquisition before 21 December.

Nevertheless, Lufthansa continued to pursue the simultaneous acquisition of Niki, as well as separate Air Berlin subsidiary LG Walter and the lion share of the mother corporation.

The European Commission "has clearly indicated that an acquisition of Niki and its integration into the Eurowings group would now not be approved", even with previous concessions on takeoff and landing times, Lufthansa said. The Commission has confirmed that there are no competition concerns relating to this agreement and easyJet now expects to complete the transaction in the near future.

The UK-based budget airline is also planning to recruit around 1,000 Air Berlin pilots and cabin crew over the coming months, to be employed on German contracts. Thomas Cook declined to comment on Wednesday.




The Austrian transport ministry said it would repatriate any Niki passengers stranded overseas by cancelled flights.

The German government, which stands to lose out on a loan given to Air Berlin, said it expected Niki, founded by former Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda, to file for insolvency protection and be grounded. Lufthansa said it will now stop financing Niki, which it had been keeping afloat at a cost of about 10 million euros a week since August. According to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), Frank Kebekus, Air Berlin's chief insolvency administrator, is now urgently attempting to negotiate a sale of Niki to British travel operator Thomas Cook in order to prevent the subsidiary's insolvency.

If Lufthansa's purchase of LGW can proceed the price will be around 18 million euros ($22 million), Air Berlin said, compared to a previous price of 210 million euros for the deal including Niki.

The German government said it regrets the EU's stance and will do everything it can to limit the damage to taxpayers. That would leave the German government almost 100 million euros short.

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