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Tuesday, 04 August 2020

EU approves huge bailout of German airline Lufthansa

AFP , Thursday 25 Jun 2020
Aircrafts of German airline Lufthansa are seen at "Franz-Josef-Strauss" airport in Munich, southern
Aircrafts of German airline Lufthansa are seen at "Franz-Josef-Strauss" airport in Munich, southern Germany, on June 25, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. (AFP)
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The EU's top competition authority approved the massive bailout of Lufthansa by the German government on Thursday, saving one of the world's biggest airlines from bankruptcy, but under conditions.

The European Commission said an injection of 6.0 billion euros by Berlin to keep the company afloat was allowed, but that Lufthansa would have to make room for rivals at the Frankfurt and Munich airports to ensure fair competition.

The overall rescue comes to nine billion euros ($10 billion) with Lufthansa also receiving three billion euros in public loan guarantees.

"This substantial amount of aid will help Lufthansa weather the current coronavirus crisis, which has hit the airline sector particularly hard," EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

Low-cost archrival Ryanair swiftly criticised the EU, saying it would challenge the state aid decision in the bloc's general court.

"Lufthansa is addicted to state aid," Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary had complained last month.

Germany's plan for Lufthansa is part of an overall rescue that became a reality on Wednesday, after a billionaire shareholder reversed course and backed the plan.

Heinz Hermann Thiele, who owns 15.5 percent of Lufthansa's stock, had repeatedly voiced scepticism about the deal -- to the dismay of Lufthansa management, employees and unions.

In the massive rescue, the German government is taking a 20 percent stake in the company, though thousands of jobs across the company will be lost.

Lufthansa also owns Austrian, Swiss and Brussels Airlines, making it a linchpin of European travel.

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