Additional German government support has been offered to Lufthansa in its bid to acquire the bulk of rival Air Berlin.
The country’s economy minister Brigitte Zypries reportedly welcomed the move despite opposition from Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary who argues that the process is going too fast to give others a fair chance to bid.
Lufthansa is not able to acquire all for Air Berlin because that would create a dominant position in German, but it is in poll position for talks ahead of other potential bidders.
The German government has granted Air Berlin a €150 million bridging loan to keep it flying for up to three months after it filed for administration.
Air Berlin chief executive Thomas Winklemann said: “We want to settle the sale in September at the latest, otherwise customers’ trust in the airline will vanish.”
Zypries told German business newspaper Handelsblatt: “Lufthansa is already an aviation champion – its position can be strengthened further though.”
She added: “It’s absurd to suggest that the federal government is in bed with Lufthansa.”
A spokesman for the ministry later told The Times that it had no preferred bidder.
“Air Berlin is leading the negotiations. The government is neither for or against any of the interested parties,” he said.
Lufthansa – which already leases 38 of Air Berlin’s 140 aircraft – could take on up to 70 aircraft with as many as 3,000 crew for its low-cost subsidiary Eurowings, Bild in Germany reported.
Other bidders of parts of Air Berlin are though to include easyJet, Thomas Cook’s German airline Condor and Tui.
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