Lufthansa to complete BMI Regional sale by year-end: Source

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Lufthansa looks likely to complete its sale of BMI Regional "before the end of the year", a source close to the matter told Flightglobal Pro.

A group of UK investors, known internally as "Granite", is understood to be carrying out due diligence on the regional subsidiary of BMI.

A number of other parties are rumoured to have been interested in acquiring BMI Regional. The sale is due to close "well before" the upcoming takeover of BMI, which is likely to face competition issues and may not close until the middle of next year, according to the source.

BMI Regional operates a fleet of four Embraer ERJ-135s and 15 Embraer ERJ-145s. The airline is hoping to continue operating the five ERJ-145s it is wet-leasing from BMI, following International Airlines Group's planned acquisition of the mainline carrier, the source said.

Ian Woodley, Graeme Ross and Robert Sturman, who have prominent roles within Granite, are understood to be likely candidates to head up BMI Regional following its takeover.

Woodley and Ross were the founders of Business Air, which was sold to British Midland in 1996 and changed its name to BMI Regional. Sturman was chief executive of British World Airlines for a decade, before working in various aviation advisory roles.

A leaked memo issued to staff at BMI Regional stated: "The intended buyer plans to continue the airline as an independent entity and will operate from the current head office in Aberdeen and its bases already established in the UK. The new owner will further develop the regional network in both the UK and Europe."

Meanwhile, IAG and Virgin Atlantic are busy battling out the bidding process to acquire BMI. Virgin has made no secret of the fact that it still considers itself in the running, despite IAG having reached a tentative agreement to acquire BMI.