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REPORTS: Bad News for IAG as Niki Lauda Takes Back Control of His Namesake Airline

REPORTS: Bad News for IAG as Niki Lauda Takes Back Control of His Namesake Airline

According to reports emerging this morning, the former F1-champion and airline tycoon, Niki Lauda has won back control of his namesake airline, Niki.  A final round of bidding for the insolvent Austrian airline closed on Friday after bankruptcy proceedings had to be moved from Germany to Austria following a legal intervention.

Niki went into administration in December 2017 when a deal to sell the airline to Lufthansa fell apart following competition concerns raised by the European Commission.  The airline originally filed for bankruptcy in Germany and a deal had been struck to sell Niki to IAG.

The owners of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and the low-cost airlines, Vueling and LEVEL had agreed to pay €20 million for Niki and planned to save around 740 of the airline’s former staff.  Only a few days ago, Willie Walsh, IAG’s chief executive had been talking about the airline group’s plans for Niki.

In an interview with Air Transport World, Walsh said he hoped to be able to double Niki’s current fleet of 15 Airbus A320’s within several years and saw an opportunity for low-cost, long-haul operation, LEVEL to expand into Vienna.

“We had already identified Vienna in the long term. With the NIKI acquisition, LEVEL could operate long-haul flights from Vienna within two or three years,” Walsh said.

“This is an exciting opportunity.”

In an attempt to woo Niki’s former staff, who number around 1,000, Walsh had spoken about the benefits of the airline being merged into the Vueling brand:

“It is important for the people of NIKI to have a sustainable future. We have plenty of opportunities, plenty of cash, and we’ve got significant numbers of aircraft orders. The NIKI cost base was good, but would be much better within a large airline group.”

But Lauda had also recently been on a charm offensive, writing in an open letter that every one of Niki’s former employees would be offered a job should he win the bidding process.

Apparently, Niki’s joint administrators, Ulla Reisch and Lucas Floether have said Lauda’s bid was the most convincing.  In a joint statement, the administrators announced:

“In the early hours of this morning (Friday) Laudamotion GmbH emerged from a transparent bidding process as the best bidder.”

At the moment, we still don’t have details of the bid and we don’t yet know Lauda’s plans for the airline he had previously seeded control of to airberlin.  IAG is yet to publicly comment on the deal.

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