Ryanair CEO says in process of finalizing Alitalia offer

Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary poses for a picture after a news conference in Berlin, Germany, September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

BERLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair RYA.I is in the process of finalizing a binding offer for Alitalia, which will see it keep the brand, long-haul operations but changing the fleet for short-haul routes, CEO Michael O'Leary said on Thursday.

“We would have to order new planes, whether Boeing or Airbus,” O’Leary told Reuters, adding that Ryanair preferred to own its fleet, rather than lease planes, as Alitalia does.

He said Ryanair hoped to preserve jobs for pilots and crew, although warned they would have to be on new terms in line with Ryanair’s cost base.

He added that Ryanair was not interested in bidding for Air Berlin AB1.DE because the process was not transparent, repeating previous accusations that it was a stitch-up designed to make Lufthansa LHAG.DE stronger.

He said he expected EU competition authorities would demand substantial remedies in the event Lufthansa buys Air Berlin, with the carrier likely to have to give up slots on routes within Germany to preserve competition.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Caroline Copley