EU clears Lufthansa's sale of bmi to British Airways

EU antitrust regulators gave a conditional greenlight Friday to a bid by International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), owner of British Airways, to buy rival bmi from Lufthansa.

The decision is conditional on IAG releasing 14 daily pairs of slots at London Heathrow and carrying connecting passengers to feed long-haul flights of competing airlines out of the airport, the European Commission said.

British Airways' competitor Virgin had pleaded with regulators to block the deal to sell bmi, or British Midland International, because it claimed it distorted competition in the aviation market.

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"The Commission could clear this transaction in the first phase given the commitments package offered by IAG which addresses the competition concerns we identified," said EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

"We are therefore satisfied that the competitive dynamics will be maintained so as to ensure choice and quality of air services for passengers," he said.

The commission said that without the concessions, the transaction would have led to "high market shares and even monopolies on a number of domestic, European and international routes out of London Heathrow airport."

Lufthansa agreed last year to sell its British subsidiary to IAG, which also owns Spanish carrier Iberia.

The sale, which will be concluded in the first quarter of next year, was fixed at 175.2 million pounds (210 million euros, $280 million).

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said the deal was "great news for Britain".

"Over time we will launch new long-haul routes to key trading nations that are currently not served from Heathrow while supporting our shorthaul network."

"We have already announced that British Airways will re-start flights from Belfast to Heathrow, maintaining important economic links."

by Maria Antonova © 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Mar 30, 2012