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Ryanair has confirmed the Irish LCC has contacted the Austrian administrators of bankrupt airberlin subsidiary NIKI, expressing interest in participating in the insolvency process and potential purchase of remaining NIKI assets, head of communications Robin Kiely told ATW.
Ryanair was one of the earlier bidders for NIKI, which filed for bankruptcy Dec. 13, 2017, immediately ceasing operations. However, the LCC later stepped back from the bidding process Airberlin declared insolvency in August and ceased operations at the end of October.
Ryanair renewed interest in NIKI following the Jan. 12 ruling by a Korneuburg Austrian court that the NIKI insolvency proceedings and asset sale should restart from scratch, casting further doubt on the International Airlines Group (IAG) acquisition of NIKI, which was based on insolvency proceedings taking place in Germany.
A Berlin regional court ruled last week that bankruptcy proceedings should be conducted in Austria rather than in Germany.
The Austrian court ruled this meant the IAG deal should be voided and proceedings should begin anew, which could open the door for German leisure carriers TUIfly, Thomas Cook (Condor) and NIKI founder, Niki Lauda to offer new bids for NIKI assets. Lauda founded NIKI in 2003.
On Dec. 29, 2017, IAG announced plans for a subsidiary of its Spanish LCC Vueling to buy NIKI assets for €20 million ($24.5 million) and provide liquidity of up to €16.5 million.
According to a Jan. 16 IAG statement, following the opening of NIKI insolvency procedures in Austria, IAG and Vueling have been in discussions with Austrian and German administrators and continue to follow developments closely. They believe all parties want the process to be resolved quickly.
IAG said it remains interested in NIKI assets and looks forward to completing the new process promptly. The group remains hopeful that Vueling can continue with its acquisition and safeguard up to 740 former NIKI jobs in Austria and Germany.
“The interest of IAG in NIKI is mainly about the carrier’s slots at Palma de Mallorca (Spain), because growth at Palma can only be done by taking over slots from another airline. And Vueling is in tough competition against Ryanair in Palma,” a former NIKI manager told ATW.
According to the Austrian TV channel ORF, Vueling plans to base up to eight Airbus A320 family aircraft in Vienna.