* Asks Austrian takeover body to extend deadline to Aug. 31
* Needs more time to come to agreement with EU Commission
* Takeover Commission to decide on extension this week
* AUA shares rise on deal hopes; Lufthansa flat
(Adds Commission, shares, analyst, source)
By Maria Sheahan and Sylvia Westall
FRANKFURT/VIENNA, July 28 Deutsche Lufthansa
(LHAG.DE) has asked the Austrian Takeover Commission to extend
the deadline to complete its deal on buying Austrian Airlines
(AUA) AUAV.VI as it scrambles to address EU antitrust
The German flagship carrier said on Tuesday it was nearing
an agreement with the European Commission -- whose approval is
required for the deal -- but would not be able to get formal
approval of the acquisition by its self-imposed July 31
Lufthansa said it had asked the Austrian Takeover Commission
to extend the Aug. 31 to give it and the European Commission
more time to reach agreement, after a weeks-long standoff over
EU concerns that combining the airlines would affect fair
The Austrian Takeover Commission said it would decide this
week whether the deadline could be extended.
Both Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines declined to comment.
Austrian Airlines shares were 6.9 percent higher at 4.35
euros by 1120 GMT, buoyed by hopes that the long-running
takeover process might finally be worked out. Lufthansa was 0.1
percent higher at 9.525.
"This (extension seeking) takes a little bit of the pressure
out of the negotiations," said UniCredit analyst Katherina
Kastenberger, adding that she thought there was now a stronger
possibility of a deal being secured.
"It shows Lufthansa is still interested in AUA," she said.
At the end of last year, Lufthansa agreed to buy loss-making
AUA, but said at the time that it wanted all of its conditions
to be approved by the end of July, giving it an escape route if
it the deal became too difficult or expensive.
Lufthansa has submitted new proposals intended to tackle
antitrust concerns, the European Commission said, adding that it
planned to market-test the new offer.
CLOSING THE DEAL
Lufthansa previous had agreed to concessions to allay the
Commission's concerns -- after AUA approved a third cost-cutting
programme to slim down ahead of the buy -- but there has been no
approval for the deal.
The whole process has dragged on for nearly a year.
AUA lost 429 million euros ($612.5 million) in 2008 and has
piled up more than 1 billion euro in debt, or more than five
times its equity. It only survived the past months due to a 200
million euro lifeline by the Austrian government.
A source close to the deal said parties involved could come
to an informal agreement this week.
"It has become more likely that there will be an informal
agreement, a handshake (on conditions), but without anything
written down or going through the bureaucratic measures," the
The source also confirmed a report in Austrian daily Kurier
that said Lufthansa was ready to give up some key takeoff and
landing slots in Vienna to competitors to defuse monopoly
concerns at the Commission.
Kurier reported that Lufthansa was prepared to yield six of
10 slots between Vienna and Frankfurt to other carriers like
Austrian low-fare airline Niki and Slovenia's Adria Airways.
Peter Michaelis, head of Austrian holding company OeIAG,
said he hoped talks were down to formalities.
"When all parties want it, we can do it and I still think
the chances are very good that this deal will be sealed," he
told Austrian radio.
He said the airlines had made "economically sensible"
decisions related to route rights and timetables to ease talks.
"The details of remedies of Lufthansa's offer are the key to
evaluate the attractiveness of the deal," said Equinet analyst
Jochen Rothenbacher, adding he expected Lufthansa to use its
strong negotiating position to get a good deal.
Analysts have said that while Lufthansa sees only 80 million
euros of potential synergies from the deal, it will pay off in
the long run as it gives access to growth regions in eastern
Europe such as Krasnodar, southwestern Russia; Kosice, Slovakia;
and Odessa, Ukraine.
(Additional reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels; editing by