16 OCTOBER 2017
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Storm clouds were gathering at the weekend over an Air Berlin deal which saw Lufthansa reinforcing its position as Germany’s largest airline on Thursday by agreeing to buy large parts of the insolvent carrier for €210m (£187m, US$249m).
First into the fray was Ryanair, which previously called talks between the two German airlines a “stitch-up” and said it would now be referring the matter to the EU competition authority.
Then on Friday Austria’s competition watchdog BWB called into question the part of the deal which handed Air Berlin’s Austrian leisure airline Niki to Lufthansa as part of the announced package.
BWB said it viewed the takeover as Lufthansa gaining anti-competitive dominance on many routes in Vienna. Lufthansa has said it plans to use Air Berlin aircraft to expand its Eurowings budget airline business.
Responding to Ryanair, Andreas Mundt, head of the German cartel office, said the European Commission would take a close look at the deal and that the German authorities would follow the process closely.
Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy in August after its main shareholder, Etihad, said it would not give further financial support. A notice on its website last week said it would stop flying by 28 October.
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