Polish carrier LOT acquires German airline Condor

FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) - Polish carrier LOT is acquiring Thomas Cook’s German airline Condor, creating a leading aviation group in Europe carrying more than 20 million passengers a year, the companies said on Friday.

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Condor, which according to sources was sold for about 300 million euros ($333 million), operates a fleet of more than 50 aircraft while LOT has a fleet of 80 aircraft.

LOT chief executive Rafal Milczarski said he sees a possible order of around 30 planes from Boeing BA.N and Airbus AIR.PA.

Unlike Thomas Cook - the holiday company that collapsed in September - Condor received a lifeline from Germany in the form of a 380 million euro ($422 million) bridging loan, allowing it to be rescued.

Earlier on Friday Reuters had cited three sources saying LOT was buying Condor.

In a statement Condor and LOT, which is owned by PGL, said they would pay back the loan from Germany in its entirety. They expect the takeover to be completed by April 2020 once antitrust approvals have been secured.

“The purchase secures the future of Condor and thus offers its employees, customers and partners stability and a great perspective,” said Rafal Milczarski, Chairman of the PGL Management Board.

The companies said Condor, which competes with Lufthansa LHAG.DE and TUI fly TUIGn.DE, would continue to operate under its current management.

As it seeks to cut costs, Condor last week struck a deal with its flight attendants on plans to cut 150 of its 2,400 cabin jobs. That followed an earlier deal to cut 170 jobs in overhead operations.

Lazard and Pekao were the investment banks working for PGL while Rothschild & Co acted for Condor.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, whose cabinet is nationalist, told a news conference on Friday: “Up until now foreign companies have been taking over Polish precious assets, now it is the other way round!”

($1 = 0.9014 euros)

Additional reporting by Matthias Inverardi in Duesseldorf, Michelle Martin in Berlin, Marcin Goclowski and Alan Charlish in Warsaw and Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Mark Potter, Elaine Hardcastle and Louise Heavens