Thursday, September 14, 2017

Niki Lauda and partners bid for NIKI, parts of airberlin

Niki Lauda ((Photo: NL Holding)

Niki Lauda, ex-Formula 1 champion and founder of Austria-based airberlin subsidiary NIKI, is partnering with UK-based Thomas Cook Group and its German leisure airline subsidiary Condor to bid for NIKI and other parts of airberlin.

Lauda confirmed the consortium project to ATW as the Sept. 15 deadline nears for potential buyers of the bankrupt German carrier.

Airberlin filed for insolvency Aug. 15 after 29.2% shareholder Etihad Airways withdrew financial support, and is in the process of seeking buyers for its assets.

“We have to wait for the decision after the bidding process is completed. My focus is on NIKI. But this alliance is also important for Condor, which could expand long-haul routes from Germany.”

ATW understands Lauda and the consortium, in which he holds a 51% stake, have bid around €100 million ($119 million). Slots at Dusseldorf Airport, where NIKI bases eight Airbus A321s, are understood to be very important for the consortium.

NIKI was established in 2004 and in 2011 became a 100% airberlin subsidiary; in 2012 it became a oneworld member.

On Dec. 5, 2016, oneworld member airberlin sold 49.8% of NIKI to Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Investment Co. for €300 million ($320 million).

Lauda told ATW that Vienna would be the home base of a “new-restarted” NIKI. “It is logical to also expand operations in Austria,” he said. This alliance would be important for leisure markets in Germany for Condor and in the Austrian market for Thomas Cook.

Lauda said Thomas Cook and Condor have the right concept to fill aircraft. “You need to have strong load factors from the first day on,” he told ATW.

Lauda said the fleet must be a mix of Airbus A320s and A321s, which also includes 17 additional aircraft from airberlin. “But only Airbus types and these [former airberlin] aircraft would be operating from Germany,” he said.

NIKI currently operates a fleet of 21 A321s.

Lauda said Lufthansa, which is also bidding for NIKI and airberlin, has a time benefit “because Lufthansa has been working on the airberlin takeover project since March.”

ATW understands 100 Lufthansa employees are working internally on the airberlin takeover project.

Hundreds of airberlin flights were canceled this week as pilots called in sick as potential buyers line up. The insolvent carrier has said if the situation does not change in the short term, it will be forced to suspend operations.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

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