Saturday, 5 November 2011

BA parent agrees €355 million bid for BMI

BA parent agrees €355 million bid for BMI
British Airways/Iberia parent company International Airlines Group has agreed to buy loss-making Heathrow rival BMI from Lufthansa.
The deal, which will be seen as a major coup for IAG chief executive Willie Walsh, is expected to be completed early next year. Today’s announcement will come as a major blow to Virgin Atlantic which faces being further marginalised at the London hub.
BMI controls 9% of valuable take-off and landing slots at Heathrow, which is now operating at full capacity after plans to build a third runway were scrapped.
But the deal with IAG is likely to attract a competition probe over potential dominance of slots at Heathrow. BMI has 300 flights a week operating from Heathrow and recently sold six sets of slots to BA.
“It gives BA the opportunity to grow in the UK,” said Walsh, who admitted that the deal, reported to be worth €355 million, had yet to be finalised.
Walsh said the deal will mean IAG will have around half of the slots at Heathrow but this is still less than Lufthansa at Frankfurt and Air France/KLM has at Paris. The takeover of BMI will enable BA to expand its long-haul network.
Virgin Atlantic said: "British Airways' hold over Heathrow is already too dominant and we are very concerned - as the competition authorities should also be - that BA's purchase of BMI would be disastrous for consumer choice and competition."
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning Walsh ruled out a bid for ailing Italian carrier Alitalia.
IAG said: “The sale and closing of the deal remain subject to conditions including a binding purchase agreement, further due diligence and regulatory clearances. It is envisaged that the purchase agreement will be signed in the coming weeks and the aim is for the transaction to be completed in the first quarter of 2012.”
BMI reported a loss of €154 million in the first nine months of 2011.