Sunday 26 January 2020

Ryanair wanted to bid for Air Berlin assets

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary Photo: Bloomberg
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary Photo: Bloomberg
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Ryanair would have been interested in acquiring slots at German airports that are currently being used by collapsed Air Berlin if a "normal" sales process was initiated, according to Ryanair's chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs.

But he told the Irish Independent that Air Berlin's insolvency will still probably see Ryanair secure a 20pc share of Germany's air market within another couple of years - ahead of a 2021 timeframe the airline previously expected to reach that goal. That will make Ryanair the second-biggest carrier in the German market after Lufthansa.

He also said that Ryanair is not planning legal action to prevent the sale of any Air Berlin assets to Lufthansa.

On Tuesday, Ryanair filed complaints with the European Commission and Germany's Bundeskartellamt - its cartel watchdog - over what the airline claimed was an "obvious conspiracy" between the German government and Lufthansa to "carve up Air Berlin's assets".

Air Berlin sank into insolvency this week after Gulf shareholder Etihad said it would no longer provide financial backing for the carrier.

Air Berlin has received an emergency €150m loan from the German government to keep it flying until November.

"We would be interested (in Air Berlin assets) if the process was following what we would consider, and the industry would consider, to be the normal process," said Mr Jacobs, citing the process under way with Alitalia, where an administrator is assessing bids from a number of airlines, including Ryanair, for parts of the business.

"It's the way we would have expected the process to shape up for Air Berlin," he added. "We would have been interested in short-haul connectivity into German airports from across Europe. Air Berlin has a lot of slots that we fly to today and some we don't that we would have looked at. Domestic could also be of some interest."

Ryanair has an 8pc share of the German market and last year said it aims to capture 20pc by 2021.

"We'll continue to grow organically, adding new aircraft, new bases and new frequencies" said Mr Jacobs.

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary told Reuters yesterday that the airline would struggle to get more takeoff and landing slots at German airports including Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich. Ryanair flies to both Frankfurt and Berlin but does not serve Munich.

"All this is down to prevent Ryanair growing in Germany, but it won't stop us," Mr O'Leary told Reuters when asked about Lufthansa's likely acquisition of Air Berlin assets.

"A merger will take Lufthansa from 68pc to 95pc of the German domestic market and from 47pc to 60pc control of the total German market, which would be in breach of every known competition threshold rule and guideline in Germany and the EU," he added.

Mr Jacobs said Ryanair is interested in growing at "any German airport".

"If this goes ahead, then there's going to be significant slot restrictions at Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich, but also airports such as Dusseldorf."

Mr Jacobs said Ryanair isn't planning legal action to prevent any asset sales. Air Berlin is in talks to sell assets to Lufthansa and one other airline.

"That's not being considered at the moment. We've made the two complaints. We'll wait for the outcome of that."    

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