Niki founder could buy back airline after it filed for insolvency

Niki founder could buy back airline after it filed for insolvency

Former Formula One racing champion Niki Lauda has said he will try to buy back the airline he founded in 2003 after it filed for insolvency.

Niki, which was owned by the bankrupt airline Air Berlin, has failed to find a buyer after talks with Thomas Cook broke down and Lufthansa pulled out of a deal.

The carrier is I a race against time to find a buyer before it loses its runway slots, one of its most valuable assets.

It’s ultimate collapse yesterday could see 5,000 passengers stranded and flown home on other carriers or specially chartered services. The airline employed 1,000 people.

The Times reported that Lauda could make an attempt to buy it back while other airlines eye the Austrian carrier’s runway slots.

Oliver Lackmann blamed European Commission concerns about competition for the collapse.  “The end of Niki is a national disaster,” he was reported as saying.

The EC has described Lufthansa’s offer to buy 81 aircraft from Air Berlin plus Niki for €210 million as a “clear risks to Austrian, German and Swiss consumers and to effective competition”.

Niki, which operated 20 aircraft, has about 1,800 slots, or 1.6% of those available in Austria, for the winter season that ends on March 23.

The Austrian transport ministry said it was considering a bridging loan for Niki and that it had had “very good” discussions with the finance minister about it.

Frank Kebekus, the Air Berlin administrator, said that he hoped to agree a deal for Niki by the end of the year.

“If we had that, then we can certainly take another week or two in January to finalise it,” he said.

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