Tue, Jan 02, 2018 - Page 10 News List

German lawmaker blasts EU for failed Niki-Lufthansa deal

Reuters, BERLIN

The German government will probably lose a 150 million euro (US$180.1 million) government-backed loan to insolvent Air Berlin because the EU opposed Lufthansa’s purchase of Air Berlin’s Austrian unit, Niki, a senior member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party said on Sunday.

British Airways owner IAG said on Friday that it would buy Niki for 20 million euros and provide additional liquidity to the company of up to 16.5 million euros, closing the final chapter in the demise of Air Berlin. Air Berlin filed for insolvency earlier this year.

“The damages will be borne by creditors and German taxpayers, who will see nothing of the Air Berlin bridging loan in the amount of 150 million euros,” said Hans Michelbach, deputy leader of the Bavarian CSU party in parliament and financial spokesman for the conservative bloc.

The situation would have been different if Lufthansa had been allowed to buy the airline for nearly 200 million euros, Michelbach said. Lufthansa backed out of an agreement to buy Niki after the European Commission indicated it would block the sale.

The German government had also criticized the commission’s position earlier this month, forecasting that only part of the bridging loan from the KfW bank would be repaid.

The Bavarian lawmaker called for a detailed investigation of the Air Berlin and Niki insolvencies and the actions of European European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.

He said details that had emerged appeared to show that the EU had carried out secret negotiations and provoked Lufthansa’s withdrawal of its takeover offer for Niki in order to “make possible the takeover by a certain investor at a bargain price.”

“By doing so, the Commission violated its neutrality obligation in the worst sense and acted against the interests of creditors,” he said.

No further details were provided.

No comment was immediately available from the Commission. Last motnh, it said Lufthansa’s purchase of Niki would have posed serious risks for European consumers.

Michelbach also called for a detailed examination of whether Niki’s landing rights in Germany could legally be sold to IAG.

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