British Airways beats Virgin to buy bmi

Wednesday, 28 December 2011 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: British Airways owner IAG is to buy Lufthansa’s UK unit bmi for 172.5 million pounds ($ 270 million) in cash, it announced last week, seeing off rival bidder Virgin in the race to grab loss-making bmi’s much coveted runway slots at London Heathrow.

The deal gives IAG another 56 daily take-off and landing slots at Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, which is operating at full capacity after plans to build a third runway were scrapped.

“Buying bmi’s mainline business gives IAG a unique opportunity to grow at Heathrow, one of our key hub airports,” IAG’s Chief Executive Willie Walsh said in a statement.

“Using the slot portfolio more efficiently provides the option to launch new longhaul routes to key trading nations.”

Walsh added there would be “some job losses” as part of an effort to stem losses at bmi, which last year were 153 million pounds before tax.

IAG, which also owns Spanish carrier Iberia, had faced competition to buy bmi from Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, which tabled a rival offer earlier this month.

Lufthansa will make an overall loss on the sale, but will benefit from shedding a “structurally loss-making subsidiary,” analyst Stefan Kick at Silvia Quandt in Frankfurt said. “We expect the deal to be clearly in favour of Lufthansa’s shareholders,” Kick said.

Lufthansa has the option of selling bmi’s ‘bmi regional’ and ‘bmibaby’ units before the deal completes, and IAG will pay a lower price if those business are not offloaded, IAG said.