(Adds details, Almunia comment, background)
BRUSSELS, April 23 Aegean Airlines may
have to offer fresh concessions to secure EU approval for its
second bid to buy Greek rival Olympic Air, after the
EU's competition watchdog deepened its investigation into the
deal on Tuesday.
Aegean submitted concessions to the European Commission last
month, including capping fares on some domestic routes. It sees
the 72 million-euro ($94 million) deal as vital to its survival
in the shrinking Greek air transport market.
But the Commission said in a statement on Tuesday that it
was concerned a deal would lead to price rises and poorer
services on some domestic routes out of Athens, where the
combined group would have a monopoly or strong position.
The routes in question were used by Greek passengers as well
as foreign travellers, it said.
"We have the duty to ensure that Greek passengers and people
visiting Greece can travel at competitive air fares, even more
so during challenging economic times," EU Competition
Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in the statement.
The Commission will now decide on the deal by Sept. 3.
Reuters had reported the Commission still had concerns earlier
The regulator blocked Aegean's first bid for Olympic in
2011, worried that the combined group would have a
quasi-monopoly in the Greek air travel market.
And blocking another deal in the sector, the Commission
rejected Ireland-based carrier Ryanair's third bid for
Aer Lingus in February this year, saying Europe's
biggest low-cost airline had not offered sufficient concessions.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Greg Mahlich)