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Germany's Blue Wings grounds planes on money woes

FRANKFURT, Jan 13 (Reuters) - German airline Blue Wings, part-owned by Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, has shut down flight operations for now as it grapples with its financial problems, a spokesman for the company said.

Passengers would either be booked on another company’s flights or get a refund, the spokesman said on Wednesday, confirming an earlier report in Rheinische Post.

This is the second time in a year that Blue Wings has had to ground its planes. Last year, it briefly lost its licence on concerns that it did not have sufficient assets to be viable in the future and had to be bailed out by ex-KGB agent Lebedev.

Lebedev at that time offered his stake in Blue Wings to Russia's Aeroflot AFLT.MM for 1 euro, but no deal came about.

Blue Wings said last week that it was facing serious financial trouble again, adding that its workers had received only about half of their wages in November and none at all for December. [ID:nLDE6071L4]

The spokesman for Blue Wings said the company was seeking a new investor and aimed to solve its problems as quickly as possible.

The company, which flies to destinations such as Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Russia and operates charter flights, carried a total of 1.1 million passengers in 2008 and generated sales of 154 million euros ($224 million).

Lebedev owns 48 percent of Blue Wings via Zurich-based investment company Alpstream. Cyprus-based Nondwell Investment Ltd and Chief Executive Joern Hellwig each hold 26 percent. (Reporting by Angelika Gruber; Writing by Maria Sheahan, editing by Will Waterman)

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