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Air Berlin's administrator takes in bids from Lufthansa, others
September 15, 2017 / 9:06 AM / 8 days ago

Air Berlin's administrator takes in bids from Lufthansa, others

A Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft of German carrier AirBerlin is being towed at Duesseldorf airport, Germany, September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

BERLIN (Reuters) - Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) and several other parties had put in bids for parts of Air Berlin (AB1.DE) by the deadline of Friday set by the administrator of the insolvent airline which employs more than 8,000 people.

Germany’s second-biggest airline after Lufthansa filed for bankruptcy last month after major shareholder Etihad Airways withdrew funding following years of losses.

The country’s coalition government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is seeking a fourth term in a federal election on Sept. 24, promptly granted the airline a bridging loan of 150 million euros ($179 million) to keep the airline flying during the administration process.

“The current status as of the 2 p.m. (1200 GMT) deadline today is that we have received several offers that we will now have to assess in great detail,” a spokesman for Air Berlin told Reuters TV, declining to provide further details.

A source close to the negotiations said Friday’s deadline for bids was not set in stone and that any offers made over the coming days would still be taken into account.

Most potential investors appear interested primarily in the airline’s roughly 140 aircraft and its airport landing and take-off slots rather than in taking over the business.

Lufthansa made an offer for parts of Air Berlin, a spokesman said, declining to provide more detail.

A source familiar with the matter said Lufthansa planned to offer a three-digit millions of euros sum for up to 90 planes, including Austrian holiday airline unit Niki’s fleet and 38 crewed planes it already leases from Air Berlin.

European budget airline easyJet (EZJ.L), which media reports had said was interested in acquiring up to 40 of Air Berlin’s planes, only confirmed on Friday that it had bid for parts of Air Berlin’s short haul business.

“EasyJet has this afternoon submitted a proposal to the overseers of Air Berlin’s insolvency to acquire parts of its short-haul business,” the company said in a statement.

“The proposal is consistent with easyJet’s focused, city-based strategy in Germany. However, given a number of uncertainties associated with Air Berlin, there is no certainty at this stage that any transaction will proceed.”

Meanwhile former Formula One motor racing world champion Niki Lauda has put in a joint bid with German airline Condor, owned by holiday firm Thomas Cook (TCG.L), a spokeswoman for Lauda said.

He had told Austrian media that he would make an offer worth around 100 million euros for Niki, an airline he once owned, and 17 Air Berlin aircraft. Thomas Cook declined to comment.

Separately German family-owned logistics firm Zeitfracht has offered to buy Air Berlin’s cargo marketing platform, its maintenance business and regional unit LGW, which operates 20 Bombardier (BBDb.TO) aircraft.

And aviation industry investor Hans Rudolf Woehrl has offered to buy Air Berlin in its entirety for 500 million euros, to be paid in installments, while China’s LinkGlobal Logistics has asked to be given more time, until Sept. 21, to formulate a bid.

A committee of Air Berlin’s creditors is to discuss the bids on Sept. 21 with a final decision on who to sell to pushed back to Sept. 25, the day after Germany’s federal election and four days later than previously planned.

German union Verdi, which among others represents cabin crew, criticized the decision by administrators to delay the announcement.

“This postponement is at the expense of the workers, who want a decision on their jobs and their future,” Verdi union board member Christine Behle said in a statement on Friday.

Air Berlin was forced to cancel flights on two days this week after protesting pilots called in sick.

(This version of the story was refiled to correct typographical errors in second and third from last paragraphs)

Additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach, Kirsti Knolle and Alistair Smout; Editing by Greg Mahlich

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