August 23, 2017 / 8:44 AM / a year ago

Air Berlin creditors meet as bidders jockey for position

BERLIN, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Air Berlin’s creditors are meeting on Wednesday for the first time as bidders jostle for position for the insolvent carrier’s assets, although major progress is not expected yet, sources told Reuters.

Air Berlin, which is being kept in the air thanks to a 150 million euro ($177 million) government loan, has been in talks with parties interested in its assets since last week, when it filed for insolvency after major shareholder, Gulf carrier Etihad, said it would no longer provide funding.

Chief Executive Thomas Winkelmann has said time is of the essence and wants a deal before the end of September.

Lufthansa, which was first in line for talks, is interested in taking on dozens of planes and Austrian unit Niki, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

Thomas Cook, which owns German airline Condor, has expressed interest in the process, while easyJet is also said to be weighing up assets.

TUI is involved as it seeks a solution for 14 crewed planes that its TUIfly unit rents to Air Berlin. Ryanair said it would be interested in a bid but complained it hadn’t been invited to join the process, which it sees as heavily favoured to Lufthansa.

Media reports have suggested initial results could be announced on Wednesday, perhaps with a deal for Niki. But a source familiar with the matter told Reuters said that that was unlikely and the meeting would deal more with formalities.

“We are looking for more bidders,” the source said, adding it was not too late for interested parties to join in talks.

The creditor committee includes representatives from Air Berlin, the federal labour office which is currently paying staff wages, Commerzbank and Lufthansa’s Eurowings.

“We would like to remind the committee that this is not just about money and aircraft, but the interests of the employees,” union Verdi said in a statement on Wednesday.

$1 = 0.8485 euros Reporting by Victoria Bryan, Alexander Huebner, Ilona Wissenbach and Gernot Heller; Editing by Edmund Blair

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