Germany's biggest airline has been given EU clearance to buy up the assets of Air Berlin, which went bust earlier this year. The competition watchdog ordered the carrier to forgo some prized slots at Düsseldorf airport.
The European Commission on Thursday approved Lufthansa's €210 million ($249 million) partial takeover of its defunct rival Air Berlin.
Brussels agreed that the German carrier could buy up the remaining assets of Air Berlin’s LGW subsidiary under the condition that it restricts its operations at Dusseldorf airport - a move aimed at preventing excessive market dominance.
Lufthansa initially planned on buying 81 aircraft out of Air Berlin’s 140-stong fleet, including all of the planes from its Austrian budget carrier Niki, plus its valuable airport slots.
But amid concerns that the EU would reject its plans, Lufthansa last week pulled out of its bid for Niki – which led to its bankruptcy and grounding.
Plans scaled back
The more modest offer will see Lufthansa acquire some 30 planes flown by LGW but leased from other companies. LGW employs some 500 people.
“This addresses our competition concerns, so we approved the proposed acquisition today under EU merger rules," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said of the deal.
"Our job is to make sure that mergers do not make European consumers worse off," she added.
Thursday's approval follows a similar green light for the British low-cost carrier easyJet to take over part of Air Berlin's operations, notably at Berlin's Tegel airport.
Air Berlin, which made losses for years, went bust in August when it lost the support of its largest shareholder, Etihad Airways. The German government stepped in with a bridging loan but no buyer was found before the carrier stopped operations two months later.
Read more: The changing skies of Europe
Lufthansa already owns low-cost Eurowings as well as Swiss, Austrian and Brussels Airlines. It is also eyeing a chunk of struggling Alitalia’s fleet.
mm/aos (AFP, AP, dpa)