Lufthansa in talks to buy planes from Air Berlin: sources

Planes of German air carrier Lufthansa AG are seen on the tarmac at Fraport airport in Frankfurt, Germany, June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's biggest airline Lufthansa LHAG.DE is in talks to buy about a quarter of the planes owned by smaller peer Air Berlin AB1.DE, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Lufthansa is eyeing roughly 40 of Air Berlin’s 150 planes, including crews, the people said, adding the planes in question were not operating out of Air Berlin’s main hubs in Berlin and Duesseldorf.

Details of any deal still needed to be hammered out.

“It’s not a deal that’s ready and on the table,” one of the people said.

Spokespeople for Lufthansa, Air Berlin and Etihad, Air Berlin’s largest shareholder, all declined to comment.

German daily Handelsblatt earlier reported that Lufthansa’s budget unit Eurowings was in talks to buy some of Air Berlin’s routes.

A deal would be a quick way for Lufthansa to expand the offering of Eurowings, which currently operates 90 planes, and also start a much-needed restructuring at loss-making Air Berlin, the people said.

Two of the people said, however, that a deal could run into regulatory opposition as it would further increase the market position of Lufthansa, already the market leader in Germany.

Reporting by Peter Maushagen; Writing by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Alexandra Hudson