But too early to fix a date
Lufthansa's takeover of Austrian Airlines has reached the final EU approval stages, the airline said today (August 25).
The German carrier said the decision now rested with the EU commissioners who must each signal approval of the deal.
Lufthansa said the merger could be signed within ten days of winning EU approval but dismissed reports of a September 3 closing date.
A spokesperson for Lufthansa said there had been no indication as to when exactly the EU would finish its review making it impossible to fix any dates.
"This is media speculation, it could happen then but it all of course depends on getting approval from the EU commission on or before August 31," Lufthansa's spokesperson said.
"As soon as the commission gives us the green light then we can finalise the date. Of course we can plan for a certain date internally, but it all depends on the commission."
Lufthansa said it expected to hear from the European Commission (EC) on August 31 regardless of whether a formal decision had been reached.
The airlines self-imposed August deadline had been set following approval from the Austrian Takeover Commission.
Earlier this month the EC announced that competition concerns surrounding Lufthansa's takeover of Austrian had been successfully dealt with.
The German carrier made further changes to its formal offer following a third EC consultation with airline competitors.
The new proposal included the sale of slots on routes in and out of Vienna to rival airlines.
Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes at the time said a draft decision would be submitted to the Advisory Committee of the Member States.
The committee was expected to back Ms Kroes' proposal allowing it to be sent to the College of Commissioners for final review.
Lufthansa is understood to have offered to give up lucrative slots on routes between Vienna and key European cities.
Three daily flights to Stuttgart and three to Cologne could be freed up as part of the deal.
Five flights a day to Frankfurt and up to four flights on Munich and Brussels routes may also be given up by Lufthansa.
Austrian budget carrier Niki, Slovakia's SkyEurope and Slovenia's Adria Airways have been singled out as being interested in the routes.
If Lufthansa's latest offer is rejected, a decision on the EC's probe into the deal may not be made until November 6.
Last month the EC began a second investigation into the takeover, citing concerns that competition could be reduced on routes between Vienna other European cities.
Under the proposed deal Lufthansa agreed to pay the Austrian government €366,268 for its 41.6% stake in its national airline.
The second part of the agreement was that the Austrian state received a "debtor warrant" from Lufthansa which might lead to additional payments.
The last element was that the Austrian government paid Lufthansa €500m for a "capital increase" in Austrian Airlines.
Lufthansa's share offer for Austrian was approved by 85% of the shareholders, above the 75% threshold needed under the takeover terms.
The Commission said it was still considering "state support for Austrian Airlines in the framework of a separate investigation under EC Treaty state aid rules."
www.austrian.com www.lufthansa.com http://ec.europa.eu/index_en.htm