Senior managers at Lufthansa say that the possibility of the airline taking an equity stake in Spanair has not been ruled out, though it has not been discussed at board level.

The Spanish press has speculated that the German carrier plans to take a share of SAS's 49%stake in the Spanish carrier, in a deal similar to that which gave it an equity holding in British Midland.

While denying these reports, Lufthansa's executive vice-president sales, Thierry Antinori, says: "We are open to any discussions. Spain is one of our top seven markets in the world and we are open to any possibility to increase the efficiency of our co-operation."

Spanair is undergoing a major fleet expansion, replacing its Boeing MD-80 family with a 45-strong order for Airbus A320s. Four of these had been delivered by early December, with the rest to be phased in by 2005. Spanair signed a 10-year maintenance contract with Lufthansa Technik last year.

Insiders say it is not surprising that Spanair chairman Gonzalo Pascual is looking for a cash injection, and that this has been made more urgent by Iberia's proposed take over of Air Europa. A deal between Lufthansa and Spanair in 2001 cannot be ruled out, they say.

Source: Airline Business