FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Former Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda has re-emerged as a potential bidder for Niki, the Austrian budget airline he founded whose messy insolvency proceedings may derail an agreed sale to Britain’s IAG (ICAG.L).
Lauda weighed in after an Austrian court appointed an administrator for Niki on Friday, in response to legal action brought by a passenger rights group seeking to recover money it says the airline owes.
That turn of events followed the reversal of an earlier decision by a Berlin court to locate the insolvency in Germany. The German administrator had agreed on a sale of Niki to British Airways owner IAG.
“I will, of course, make an offer for Niki by Jan. 19,” Lauda told Germany’s Handelsblatt business daily, referring to a deadline set by the court in the Austrian town of Korneuburg.
Lauda, 68, has previously been in the frame as a possible buyer of Niki as part of the breakup of its failed parent Air Berlin (AB1.DE). He had come forward with partners but said he would be a sole bidder in this case.
Lauda did not say how much he was prepared to bid for Niki but welcomed the transfer of the insolvency proceedings to Austria, where the company he founded in 2003 is registered.
“The insolvency process is finally there where it belongs - in Austria,” he said. “I regret that so much time was wasted with the detour through Germany.”
Reporting by Douglas Busvine, editing by Louise Heavens