Former F1 champion Niki Lauda eyes parts of Air Berlin

Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline, filed for insolvency last month after major shareholder Etihad withdrew funding following years of losses. (Reuters)
Updated 14 September 2017
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Former F1 champion Niki Lauda eyes parts of Air Berlin

VIENNA/BERLIN: Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda said he has partnered with German airline Condor in a bid worth around €100 million for 38 Air Berlin leased aircraft.
Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline, filed for insolvency last month after major shareholder Etihad withdrew funding following years of losses.
Administrators are now seeking investors for the business, with bids due by Friday and a decision planned on September 21.
Most potential investors are seen being interested primarily in Air Berlin’s roughly 140 leased aircraft and its airport slots rather than its operating business or employees.
Lauda holds 51 percent of a consortium with Thomas Cook subsidiary Condor which will bid for 21 leased Airbus A320 and A321 planes at Air Berlin subsidiary Niki – which Lauda once owned – and 17 Air Berlin aircraft, he told Austrian newspaper Kurier on Wednesday.
Asked how much he was willing to pay, Lauda told ORF radio on Thursday: “It depends very much on how the details are defined, but we are now offering around €100 million.”
Thomas Cook CEO Peter Fankhauser declined to comment. The company has previously said it was looking to play an active role in the Air Berlin process.
Two sources close to Condor cautioned however that no joint bid had been submitted. One of them said such an offer was unlikely to materialize.
The other source said that Condor remained interested in a double-digit number of planes, including ones for long-haul routes.
Austrian-based Niki has lower costs than Air Berlin and earlier this year it took over flying popular routes from Germany to tourist destinations in Spain.
Lauda and Condor would face competition from Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline.
Lufthansa plans to make an offer for up to 90 planes, including Niki’s fleet and 38 crewed planes it already leases from Air Berlin, a source told Reuters.
British budget carrier easyJet is also reportedly interested in up to 40 planes, previous reports have said. Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Thursday that easyJet was interested in Air Berlin’s regional unit Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter (LGW), without specifying its sources.
LGW currently operates 20 smaller Bombardier planes and its operating certificate is being changed so that it can fly the A320s used by easyJet, the newspaper said. The British carrier was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.
Other interested parties include aviation investor Hans Rudolf Woehrl, who says he has submitted a bid for the whole of Air Berlin, while German family-owned logistics company Zeitfracht and China’s LinkGlobal Logistics have also expressed interest.
Air Berlin’s flight operations were disrupted earlier this week after pilots called in sick, in what was seen as a protest about job uncertainty, potentially complicating efforts to rescue the carrier.
Management, unions and politicians all called on the pilots to return to work to ensure talks with bidders could be completed. Air Berlin expects normal operations on Thursday, a spokeswoman said.


EU’s Barnier urges UK to accept EU court deal for Brexit

Updated 26 May 2018
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EU’s Barnier urges UK to accept EU court deal for Brexit

  • Brexit negotiator says Britain playing "hide and seek" by delaying details on trade relationship.
  • UK ministers decry remarks as not "helpful."

BRUSSELS: EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned Britain on Saturday that failing to agree a deal on the governance of a withdrawal treaty which preserves the primacy of the EU court would mean no treaty and no transition period.

Barnier also described British delays in spelling out what kind of trade relationship London wants as “a game of hide and seek” in remarks prepared for delivery to a gathering in Portugal of jurists specialized in EU law.

He chided British criticism of EU positions as a “blame game,” urging London to recognize that it could not retain many elements of EU membership after Brexit.

The sharp tone of the former French minister’s remarks follow several days of talks in Brussels between his team of EU negotiators and British counterparts, after which a senior EU official dismissed as “fantasy” both London’s overall proposals for future close relations and an offer to avoid a disruptive “hard border” between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

British ministers said those remarks were not “helpful.”

Barnier said he was ready to have “political level” talks to try to advance in three key areas where uncertainty remains, 10 months before Britain is due to leave in March 2019 — how to rule on future disputes over the withdrawal treaty, a “backstop” solution for the Irish border and a framework for future ties.

Referring to discussions within Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on whether to drop an insistence on having no customs union, he said: “If the United Kingdom would like to change its own red lines, it must tell us. The sooner the better.”
“We are asking for clarity,” he added. “A negotiation cannot be a game of hide and seek.”

On the issue of the governance of a withdrawal treaty, which both sides hope to have ready around October, Barnier repeated the EU’s insistence that primacy of the European Court of Justice inside the Union be maintained in regulating any dispute that could not be resolved by a joint committee appointed by the political leadership of the two sides.

“We cannot accept that a jurisdiction other that the Court of Justice of the European Union determines the law and imposes its interpretation on the institutions of the Union,” he said.

The role of British judges would be respected, he added.

But without an agreement on this, the whole deal would collapse: “Without an agreement on governance, there will be no withdrawal agreement and so no transition period.”

Many businesses are counting on an interim accord to maintain a broad status quo between Britain and the EU after Brexit until the end of 2020.

Barnier, who has been hoping to making substantial progress on key issues before May meets fellow EU leaders at a Brussels summit in a month, also criticized what he called a “blame game” in which British officials were accusing the EU of failing to show flexibility to allow continued close cooperation in areas such as security, the economy and research.

This, Barnier said, was to ignore the close legal framework within the EU which was the basis for trust and cooperation among its nation-state members. “We cannot share this decision-making autonomy with a third country,” he said.

“The United Kingdom must face up to the reality of the Union ... It is one thing to be inside the Union and another to be on the outside.”