Brussels, 26th January 2009
Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed take-over of SN Brussels Airlines by Lufthansa
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation under the EU Merger Regulation into the planned acquisition of SN AirHolding (SNAH) of Belgium by Lufthansa of Germany, both active in passenger and cargo air transport. The Commission’s initial market investigation indicated that the proposed acquisition could significantly impede effective competition and so raises serious doubts as to its compatibility with the Single Market, at least as regards passenger air transport on a number of routes between Belgium and Germany and Belgium and Switzerland. The decision to open an in-depth inquiry does not prejudge the final result of the investigation. The Commission now has 90 working days, until 10 June 2009, to take a final decision.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said “At a time of consolidation in the European airline sector, the Commission must make sure that consumers will continue to have a competitive choice of airline services both as regards fares and routes”..
Lufthansa is a full-service air carrier with hubs at Frankfurt and Munich airports, and a base at Düsseldorf. Lufthansa also controls Swiss International Air Lines Ltd. (Swiss), based at Zurich airport, Air Dolomiti, Eurowings and low-cost carrier Germanwings.
SNAH is the holding company of SN Brussels Airlines, the Belgian commercial airline active in the transport of both passengers and cargo mainly in Europe and some destinations to Africa.
The Commission’s initial investigation found that the proposed transaction would lead to the creation of a monopoly with respect to three routes from Brussels to Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich and substantially reduce competition on the route from Brussels to Berlin. The investigation also identified competition concerns on two routes between Belgium and Switzerland, namely Brussels-Zurich and Brussels-Geneva.
In order to remove the identified competition concerns, Lufthansa proposed remedies on 5 January 2009. However, the Commission found that these remedies were not sufficiently clear-cut to remove the serious doubts identified in its first phase investigation.
More information on the case is available at