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.


NMC Health stock jumps as earnings rise and group looks to Saudi Arabia

Updated 20 August 2018
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NMC Health stock jumps as earnings rise and group looks to Saudi Arabia

  • Shares gain as profits rise
  • Analysts upbeat on prospects

LONDON: The UAE-based private health care operator NMC Health is looking to further expand into Saudi Arabia, buoyed by strong revenue growth and strategic acquisitions made in the first half of the year.

The company reported on Monday a 20.2 percent increase in revenue in the first six months of the year, to reach $932 million. Healthcare revenues alone rose by 25.8 percent to $706 million. Net profit also rose to $116.7 million, a 19.3 percent increase on the same time period the year before.

The stock was up more than 3 percent in early afternoon trade in London.

The results met with analysts’ expectations, who continue to be upbeat about the company’s prospects.

“These are good results from NMC Health and the positive outlook has clearly been well received by the market. The shares are up 5 percent in early trading following a strong run already this year,” said analyst Ian Forrest at the UK-based The Share Center.

“NMC’s impressive H1 results demonstrated that it continues to deliver its operational and strategic targets,” said Charles Weston, senior equity research analyst at Berenberg, in a note on Monday.

“We had projected 20 percent revenue growth and a 32 percent rise in EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization), and both were met.”

Acquiring new assets and growth in existing home markets helped drive the increase in revenue, said Prasanth Manghat, chief executive officer, in a statement on Monday.

“The first half of 2018 saw NMC continue to demonstrate strong organic growth alongside complementary acquisitions, resulting in the realization of improved financial results,” he said.

The health care operator has made a number of acquisitions in the UAE and Saudi Arabia over the last year as it looks to capitalize on Kingdom’s health sector privatization plans.

Earlier this year, it completed the acquisition of the Chronic Care Specialist Medical Center in Jeddah. It also obtained an 80 percent stake in the Riyadh-based Al Salam Medical Group in April 2018.

The company took its first steps into the cosmetics market this year, acquiring a 70 percent stake in the Dubai-based CosmeSurge, which has an expanding network of clinics throughout the UAE.

In June, NMC signed a joint-venture agreement with the Saudi Arabian Hassana Investment Company — the investment arm of the the state-backed pension fund, General Organization for Social Insurance.

It is a move which is expected to “substantially” increase the company’s expansion in the Kingdom.

“Our previously announced agreement with Hassana Investment Company to form a joint venture, good macro-economic conditions in the health care sector in Saudi Arabia, and a strong country management team provides an exciting platform from which our Saudi Arabian business will be grown further,” said Manghat.

The JV is anticipated to become the second largest health care operator in Saudi Arabia in terms of the number of beds, according to a company statement. It is due to be completed in the fourth quarter this year, and a management team are in place in the Kingdom.

NMC’s planned expansion into Saudi Arabia will be further supported by the $450 million convertible bond it issued in April.

The bond forms part of the company’s strategy to retain its recently-won place on London’s FTSE 100 index. It was one of the first Middle Eastern companies to join the index when it qualified last September. It first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2012.

The company’s growth this year has been also attributed to organic growth in the UAE with the increase in the number of operational beds at the NMC Royal
Hospital in Abu Dhabi as well as the introduction of mandatory health insurance in Dubai last year.

Health care is seen as a lucrative sector in the Gulf due to its relatively wealthy population becoming increasingly at risk of problems related to obesity and diseases such as type 2 diabetes.