September 1, 2017 / 2:29 PM / a year ago

Former EnBW chief Claassen interested in Air Berlin: Spiegel

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Utz Claassen, a former chief executive of German utility EnBW (EBKG.DE), is interested in buying large parts of insolvent airline Air Berlin AB1.DE, German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Friday, citing no sources.

An aircraft operated by German carrier Air Berlin lands in Berlin's Tegel airport, Germany, August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Air Berlin, Germany’s second-largest airline, filed for bankruptcy protection in August after shareholder Etihad Airways withdrew funding following years of losses.

Now the carrier is to be carved up, most likely among several buyers, with about 140 leased aircraft and valuable take-off and landing slots in Germany up for grabs.

Der Spiegel said that Claassen had told Air Berlin’s administrator Lucas Floether in a letter that he wanted to “secure as many jobs as possible” with the help of a “highly potent and very reputable international investor”.

Nobody was immediately available for comment at Claassen’s Frankfurt office. The magazine did not identify the investor.

German airline Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) has government backing to take over large parts of Air Berlin. Britain’s easyJet (EZJ.L) and Thomas Cook’s (TCG.L) Condor are also seen as likely bidders.

Ryanair (RYA.I) said this week it would not submit a bid, and German aviation investor Hans Rudolf Woehrl stepped back from the process on Thursday to search for a partner.

Former motor racing driver Niki Lauda has expressed interest in buying back Air Berlin’s subsidiary Niki.

Bidders for the assets must submit offers by a Sept. 15 deadline, and a decision could come on Sept. 21, three days before the German national election.

The carrier is being kept in the air thanks to a 150 million euro ($178 million) government loan, which government officials say will last the airline for up to three months.

Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Additional reporting by Peter Maushagen. Editing by Jane Merriman

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