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Germania questions state loan for troubled Air Berlin

Privately owned carrier Germania has announced it's not willing to accept a state loan that the German government has promised to grant insolvent rival Air Berlin. It took legal action to stop the credit.

German carrier Germania, which operates scheduled and charter flights to destinations in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, on Tuesday lodged a complaint with a regional court in Berlin, asking it to prevent the German government from paying out a promised loan to domestic rival Air Berlin.

The latter had filed for bankruptcy protection after its main shareholder, Abu-Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, withdrew financial aid for the loss-making carrier.

Germania called the promised loan of 150 million euros ($180 million) illegal state aid that would eventually only help German flagship carrier Lufthansa, which had voiced interest in taking over Air Berlin's most valuable businesses.

Watch video 02:28

Lufthansa to win big in divvying up Air Berlin

Germania said Lufthansa would be given an unfair competitive advantage over its rivals. The court in Berlin is to decide on the matter on September 15, before the European Commission is expected to decide whether the promised state loan is in line with European competition laws.

A Lufthansa insider told Reuters Tuesday the airline aimed to keep intact many of Air Berlin's current long-haul routes to be operated by its no-frills subsidiary Eurowings.

Many potential bidders

While Lufthansa confirmed it was interested in buying a large share of assets in Air Berlin, officials from the insolvent airline had said they were also "still in talks with three other interested parties."

Britain's easyJet and German vacation airline Condor are considered to be among the potential investors. On Wednesday, a meeting is scheduled with German entrepreneur Hans Wöhrl, who said he was interested in purchasing Air Berlin as a whole.

hg/jd (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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