Niki Airlines, Austria's leisure-focused carrier, may soon fly again as a deal seems close to sell the airline and its assets to International Air Group, the British/Spanish parent of British Air, Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus. Flights have been cancelled since Dec. 14, when a Lufthansa deal for the Air Berlin subsidiary fell through.
As of Thursday, the bankruptcy administrators had ended talks with three other bidders and given exclusive negotiating rights to IAG, which had submitted the highest bid, believed to be about €48 million. If successful in cutting a deal, IAG would operate Niki 'as is,' and keep most of the 1,000 or so employees.
Lufthansa had originally included the usually-profitable Niki subsidiary in its bid for Air Berlin assets, but was warned by European competition authorities that it would not be approved. When Lufthansa dropped its bid, limiting it to LGW, a domestic German subsidiary, Niki lost 'lifeline' funding from the German government and was forced to close. If a deal can be reached quickly, Niki will be able to keep its prized airport slots and routes, which are its main value to IAG.
The other bidders, now out of the picture, were Thomas Cook Airlines, Tuifly and Niki Lauda, the racing driver who founded the airline and later sold it to Air Berlin.