UK-based investors are near to an agreement to acquire UK carrier BMI Regional, a division of the mainline airline owned by Lufthansa Group.

If a deal is closed it would mark the first move in the break-up of BMI which has burdened Lufthansa since it took over the loss-making operation in 2009.

BMI Regional operates a fleet of Embraer jets and is based in the Scottish city of Aberdeen.

The mainline carrier said it "envisaged" that a transaction document for the sale "will be signed shortly" with a view to completing the divestment by the end of the year.

It said the sale would be in the form of shares of BMI Regional, the airline's fleet and route network, and the continued employment of personnel.

While the proposed buyer has not been identified, BMI said it was an investor group "previously associated with the regional business" and that discussions were "advanced".

BMI Regional would continue to fly, for a period, under its current brand and IATA designator code and the current winter 2011-12 schedule "will continue as planned" with "no major network changes" expected for summer 2012.

"The intended sale of BMI Regional is part of the strategic review of BMI," said BMI chief Wolfgang Prock-Schauer.

"It is our goal to find sustainable solutions for all parts of the BMI business and we, as well as the shareholder, continue to assess options."

No financial details have been disclosed. BMI said the potential investor is "keen to consult with staff" and that this would begin soon, in order to complete the transaction as soon as possible.

"The new owner plans to continue the airline as an independent entity based in Aberdeen and to further develop the regional network in both the UK and Europe," it added.

"Employment prospects will be enhanced through a planned growth strategy."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news