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01 Sep 2017

BY Tom Parry

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TRFBLI

Ryanair brands airberlin-Lufthansa plans a 'stitch-up'

Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary has branded Lufthansa’s intentions to secure most of the assets of airberlin “a complete stitch-up”.

Michael OLeary

O’Leary has asked German and European competition authorities to investigate what he considers a “conspiracy” between airberlin, Lufthansa and the German government to “carve up” airberlin’s assets.

 

Air Berlin filed for insolvency on August 15 after its largest shareholder, Etihad Airways, pulled its funding.

 

O’Leary alleged that airberlin’s insolvency period was being timed to allow Lufthansa to take over the airline debt free, which he said would contravene German and EU competition rules.

 

“It went into bankruptcy in the second week of August. That is not a time when airlines run out of money, but it is two months before the German federal election,” he said.

 

“The [German] government is supporting the process with a state aid loan allowing the German number one to buy the German number two.”

 

Airberlin has received a €150 million bridging load from the German government to keep it operating.

 

“Even Zimbabwe and North Korea would struggle to justify this under their own competition rules,” O’Leary said, adding: “The Germans... have no problem breaking the rules when it suits them.”

 

A Lufthansa spokesperson said: “The Lufthansa Group has specified its interest to purchase parts of the Air Berlin Group with a comprehensive proposal. The company had already announced last week that it is in negotiations to purchase parts of the Air Berlin Group.

"In the term sheet submitted today Lufthansa Group affirms its interest in taking over parts of the Air Berlin Group. The Lufthansa Group and the insolvency administrator have agreed to maintain silence on the details.”

 

Meanwhile, O’Leary confirmed that Ryanair will vie to operate 90 aircraft and corresponding crew belonging to Alitalia and will be submitting a bid during the first round of offers, due to be sent to administrators by early October.

 

Although he would not reveal full details of Ryanair’s offer, O’Leary said the aircraft would be flown under the Alitalia brand and that Ryanair would also take on Alitalia’s long-haul routes as part of the deal.

 

"I think one of the aspects of Alitalia that is really attractive is the long-haul fleet. There is the capacity to grow very strongly," he said.

 

However, he conceded: "I’m fairly sure we will be blocked from taking over Alitalia. We have a 35% share of the Italian market already. But I think we’ll get something."

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