Lufthansa in the lead to buy Air Berlin’s assets

Air Berlin’s board will take a final decision on the bidding process after October 11.

As per two sources familiar with the matter at hand, Lufthansa is likely to buy a large stake in insolvent rival Air Berlin; EasyJet is also competing to buy some of Air Berlin’s assets.

On Thursday, Air Berlin’s creditors had met to discuss offers from Germany’s second largest airline and have agreed to the carve-up, said sources.

In August, Air Berlin, having an employee strength of 8,000 and and which operates 144, mostly, leased airplanes, filed for insolvency after its major shareholder Etihad pulled the plug on its funding.

Earlier this year, Lufthansa’s CEO had said the said earlier that the carrier wanted to secure the 38 crewed planes it leases from Air Berlin, and was interested in a further 20-40 short-haul planes.

As per sources, creditors are set to hold exclusive negotiations with Lufthansa upto October 12, which means Air Berlin’s board is unlikely to take a final decision on September 25. Other assets are likely to be picked up by Thomas Cook’s German leisure airline Condor as well as by EasyJet .

The development comes just three days before Germany’s national election in which Chancellor Angela Merkel is likely to win a fourth term.

“There are pilots from Air Berlin that we of course wish all the best to, like all people who have a job and would like to keep it,” said Merkel at a rally in Neuss, where dozens of Air Berlin workers wearing fluorescent yellow crew jackets joined Merkel supporters.

As for Air Berlin, it said its board will review offers on September 25 and give an update on the process.

The prospect of getting access to Air Berlin’s airport slots, planes and crews had drawn interest from those airlines and other investors, including former Formula One driver Niki Lauda and aviation entrepreneur Hans Rudolf Woehrl.

In a statement Air Berlin said, the deadline for bids for its maintenance unit has been extended to October 6.

While Condor was not immediately available for comment, Lufthansa and EasyJet declined to comment.

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