Air Berlin has agreed to acquire German charter carrier LTU for €140 million ($187 million) in a takeover which includes the assumption of €190-200 million in debt.

The move brings 52 year-old LTU - a short- and long-haul operator which is one of the best-known names in Germany's huge leisure airline sector - under the control of one of the new breed of low-cost carriers powering the growth of European air transport.

Investment firm Intro, which took a controlling shareholding in Dusseldorf-based LTU a year ago, co-owned the carrier in partnership with the investment organisation Marbach Beteiligung und Consulting, which is linked with LTU chief Jurgen Marbach.

Intro has been seeking a strategic partner for LTU and has been holding talks with potential investors for several months.

“With the acquisition of LTU we are reacting to demands from the market,” says Air Berlin chief Joachim Hunold. “Many of our customers, who especially appreciate our good service offering, have been asking us for many years to start offering long-haul flights.

“This is now possible for us as we have the necessary feeder network through our European and domestic German connections.”

Air Berlin last year acquired short-haul carrier DBA, which was also previously owned by Intro. Air Berlin operates a short-haul fleet of Boeing 737s and Airbus A319/320s while LTU’s fleet comprises Airbus A330s and A321/320s.