December 21, 2017 / 1:46 PM / 4 months ago

EU Commission clears Lufthansa's acquisition of Air Berlin assets

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission cleared a deal by Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) to buy insolvent Air Berlin’s (AB1.DE) subsidiary LGW on Thursday, after it agreed to give up some runway slots at Duesseldorf, the EU’s executive said.

FILE PHOTO - A logo of German airline Lufthansa is seen before the company's annual news conference at the airport in Munich, Germany, March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Lufthansa had originally planned to buy LGW along with another Air Berlin airline, Niki, but dropped its bid for Niki after the Commission indicated it would block the purchase.

As part of the deal agreed upon, some Air Berlin aircraft, crew and slots at several airports were transferred to LGW.

Lufthansa agreed to forego a number of slots at Duesseldorf airport to ease the Commission’s competition concerns, thereby making sure that its slot portfolio would rise by only 1 percent following the acquisition. That means 50 percent of the slots will be held by competitors, the Commission said.

“Lufthansa has put forward improved remedies that make sure the effects of its LGW acquisition on competition are limited,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Lufthansa will take on 33 aircraft, 20 Bombardier turboprops and 13 Airbus A320 aircraft, for its Eurowings unit, it said, plus all LGW staff on their current contracts.

“Eurowings will continue to be a growth engine in 2018,” CEO Thorsten Dirks said.

The European airline industry has this year witnessed the demise of Monarch and Air Berlin, while Italian flag carrier Alitalia has filed for insolvency protection.

    A process to find another bidder for Niki is currently ongoing. Niki Lauda, the former motor racing drive who founded the airline in 2003, has made a bid, while Ryanair has decided against an offer.

    Reuters reported earlier this week that the Commission would clear the purchase of LGW.

    Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels and Victoria Bryan in Berlin; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Elaine Hardcastle

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