Austrian airline Niki insolvent after Lufthansa drops bid

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The warning comes a week after Lufthansa offered concessions to encourage the European Commission to green-light its planned purchase of parts of Air Berlin.

Air Berlin, which was Germany's second-biggest airline, ended operations in late October.

Austrian airline Niki faced insolvency and its planes being grounded Wednesday as Lufthansa gave up on plans to buy it from bankrupt Air Berlin in the face of competition concerns from the European Commission.

Air Berlin on Tuesday said that there were no other bidders for Niki after talks with Thomas Cook failed to result in a new offer, leaving Niki's future uncertain if Lufthansa's bid is rejected on competition grounds.

"It is regrettable, in particular because this was not the only possible outcome since the start of the sales process", the Commission said, adding that usually competition concerns in merger cases can be addressed by offering "adequate remedies".

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"It was clear from the start that Lufthansa and Air Berlin overlap on a very significant number of routes, with clear risks to Austrian, Germans and Swiss consumers and to effective competition", the statement said.

Brussels "will now limit its review to Lufthansa's proposed acquisition of LGW", the Commission said. Lufthansa and Air Berlin's administrators had also previously warned that would happen if the deal was not approved. Meanwhile, however, the airline's founder, Niki Lauda, said on Wednesday that he was "still interested" in buying Niki.

Air Berlin filed for insolvency in August, with a deadline for bids for the sale of its assets by mid September.

Its aircraft were kept aloft by a 150-million-euro emergency loan from the German government while it negotiated the sale of its assets. The acquisition will result in easyJet operating 25 aircraft from Berlin Tegel Airport.

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