IAG, the parent company of British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, announced Friday evening the acquisition of Niki, the Austrian charter company subsidiary of the bankrupt airline Air Berlin.
In a statement, IAG says it buys Niki for 20 million euros and agrees to provide up to 16.5 million euros of additional liquidity into the company.
The sale of Niki marks the end of the liquidation of Air Berlin, the second largest German airline, which ceased operations in October.
Niki will become part of Vueling, the low-cost company of IAG, while being registered in Austria, said IAG.
The Group, which also acquires 15 A320 aircraft and landing slots at several European airports, is committed to employing 740 of Niki’s former 1,000 employees.
“Niki was Air Berlin’s most financially viable asset and its focus on leisure travel makes it the ideal fit for Vueling,” said Willie Walsh, IAG’s CEO.
In mid-December Lufthansa had renounced to acquire Niki in the face of the threat of a veto by the EU competition authorities, forcing the charter company to file for bankruptcy and seek urgently a buyer before losing its valuable landing slots.
Niki, founded in 2003 by former Formula One champion Niki Lauda, was acquired entirely by Air Berlin in 2011 but retained its name.
Lauda submitted an offer to take it back and several other contenders came forward, but IAG won the bet.
Air Berlin, appreciated by the Germans for its flights to Mallorca and its chocolate hearts distributed with each flight, was kept alive by a government bridge loan while negotiating its dismantling.
The company has already sold a number of its aircraft to Lufthansa and some of its activities and planes at Berlin-Tegel airport to easyJet.