Lufthansa sole bidder for airline


VIENNA, Austria — Austria’s privatization agency said Thursday it had chosen Lufthansa for exclusive final negotiations on selling the state’s 41.6 percent stake in Austrian Airlines.

A statement by the agency, known by its Austrian acronym OeIAG, said it “will conduct final negotiations only with Lufthansa from this point on.”

Air France-KLM and S7 of Russia, the two other carriers that had expressed an interest “are no longer in the bidding process,” said OeIAG, in the statement quoted by the Austria Press Agency.

No sales price or other details were revealed. But among the conditions set by Lufthansa late last month were that the Austrian state assume up to euro500 million of the Austrian company’s debt.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG official Patrick Meschenmoser said the Germany company would not comment on the talks or conditions set by the German carrier “in accordance with the rules of the proceedings.” No one was answering the telephone after office hours at Austrian Airlines corporate headquarters.

Austria’s government decided in August to sell off its share in the ailing flagship carrier, which is steeped in euro900 million(US$1.127 billion) debt.

Austrian posted a net loss of euro16.4 million (US$20.54 million) for the three months that ended Sept. 30. In the third quarter of 2007 it had reported a euro20.6 million (US$25.8 million profit.

OeIAG head Peter Michaelis, in comments cited by APA, said he expected negotiations to end in final agreement “within a month.” He said Lufthansa’s conditions that the Austrian state assume a large part of the carrier’s debt were being evaluated.

Michael Kolek, another official, said that — although discussions with Air France-KLM occurred as late as a few days ago, they resulted in “no binding offer.”