Lufthansa to Sell bmi?

Lufthansa’s acquisition of the remaining 20 percent of bmi has fueled speculation that it could imminently try to sell the loss-making British airline.

Lufthansa agreed to pay approximately $30 million to SAS airline for the remaining stake which it did not already own, with a further $30 million to cancel a shareholder agreement with bmi. Lufthansa will also have to pay SAS an additional undisclosed amount should the German carrier sell all or parts of bmi within the next two years.

There have reportedly been as many as 12 parties interested in bmi. Willie Walsh, British Airways' Chief Executive, reportedly said this week that he would be interested, but that no formal talks had been held.

Flybe has also emerged as a potential runner in the race. The regional carrier is being tipped to make a joint bid with BA, although the latter has denied any talks. However, due to BA's dominant share at Heathrow, the company might not gain the approvals of competition regulators as a sole bidder. A successful bid by Flybe would sidestep BA’s potential problems with competition watchdogs, and would also block Virgin Atlantic's bids for bmi.

In 2008, bmi generated $1.6 billion of revenue. The last set of accounts filed show the net pension plan deficit at $72.6 million on December 31, 2007. The International Air Transport Association said this month that it expected the world’s airlines to lose about $11 billion this year.