Sir Richard set to appeal BMI takeover deal

Marion Dakers
VIRGIN Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson yesterday vowed to appeal to Europe over British Airways owner IAG’s takeover of smaller carrier BMI.

The £172m deal was given clearance by the European Commission at the end of March, but Sir Richard has criticised the regulators for their swift decision, in the latest attack on his rival’s acquisition.

He said the deal “will cause serious competitive harm” at close-to-capacity Heathrow, where landing slots are in high demand.

“The European Commission has seemingly ignored all of the strong cases made by politicians, business groups and airlines, to enable one big company to become even more bloated,” Sir Richard said in a statement.

While Virgin plans to bid for the 12 pairs of slots BA is selling as part of its regulatory clearance deal, Sir Richard said this is a “derisory” and “completely inadequate” way of watering down BA’s dominance.

Virgin lost out in the fight to buy BMI from current owner Lufthansa last year.

British Airways hopes to use BMI’s slots at Heathrow to launch new long-haul routes.

The firm, which plans to close the deal this week, has started talks with unions over 1,200 job cuts as it integrates BMI’s staff and operations.

A spokesperson for the firm said yesterday that the EC “conducted a thorough and detailed review of the case, and listened to all stakeholders involved”.