Air Berlin consolidates market position with Condor takeover

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Air Berlin's acquisition trail continues with planned takeover of German carrier Condor

Fresh from its acquisitions of dba and LTU, Air Berlin has taken another major step towards consolidation in the German market by agreeing to take over Condor as part of a share-swap deal with Thomas Cook. If the deal goes ahead, Air Berlin will become Germany's second biggest carrier and will be propelled into the European top five.

Air Berlin will acquire a 75.1% stake in Condor directly from Thomas Cook in February 2009, subject to regulatory approval. At the same time, Thomas Cook plans to acquire the remaining 24.9% of Condor from Lufthansa, and will pass this stake on to Air Berlin in February 2010.

In return, Thomas Cook will receive between €380 million ($533 million) and €475 million worth of Air Berlin shares as well as about €120 million in cash, giving the tour operator up to a 29.99% stake in the German carrier. Thomas Cook joint chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa says there are "categorically no plans" to further increase this stake in the future.

Condor operates a fleet of 35 aircraft, comprising 13 Airbus A320s, 13 Boeing 757-300s and nine 767-300s. The carrier's network includes a range of short- and long-haul destinations, which it operates from its Frankfurt base and Munich hub.

"This step makes sense, especially following the takeover of LTU, since it will enable us to offer our clients a more tightly-meshed long-haul flight network," says Air Berlin chief executive Joachim Hunold.

In August Air Berlin got the green light for its €140 million acquisition of LTU. As part of the integration process, Air Berlin has decided to drop the LTU brand name on most of its routes.

"We will continue to fly under the LTU logo on traditional long-haul leisure flights, for example to South Africa, Cuba, Thailand and the Dominican Republic. However, this will not apply to our medium-haul flights and our new long-haul business flights," explains Hunold.