AUA – Lufthansa deal a ‘success’ and ‘very good solution’

Austrian Industry-Holding Stock Corporation (ÖIAG) head Peter Michaelis has claimed that the sale of Austrian Airlines (AUA) to Lufthansa was a “success”.The Austrian government coalition of the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) assigned ÖIAG to sell a major stake of AUA when it became clear that the airline was at risk of going bankrupt.AUA was taken over by German aviation giant Lufthansa in September 2009 after Sheikh Mohammed Bin Issa Al Jaber backed out of acquiring it. ÖIAG had held talks with the Austrian-Saudi businessman for months before he eventually decided not to buy the airline.Hundreds of employees were laid off at AUA since the deal which has been criticised by rivals like FlyNiki as the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition agreed on bolstering the airline with half a billion Euros shortly before the takeover agreement.Michaelis claimed today (Mon) that taxpayers would have had to pay much more if the company had gone bust.Looking back at his 10-year term as head of ÖIAG which ends next June, he told the Kurier newspaper: “The sale of AUA was our biggest success.”The former Mannesmann manager said: “AUA had more debts than it was worth as a firm. (…) Those 500 million Euros (government aid) were well invested indeed. It ensured AUA continues to exist as a brand name. The airline was not relocated from Vienna. A very good solution.”Michaelis also criticised the joint SPÖ-ÖVP administration for allegedly having tried to keep AUA an autonomous firm for as long as possible before eventually deciding to put it up for sale.”The government apparently regarded the airline as some kind of flagship for the nation,” Michaelis, who is known as an outspoken supporter of privatising state-owned companies, said.Michaelis came under fire himself when a reports in Viennese daily Heute claimed in September that he charged ÖIAG with paying more than 800 Euros for express deliveries of CDs, DVDs, a spyglass and other private belongings. The report’s accusations were dismissed by a spokeswomen.The speculations intensified the debate over whether it would be better to dissolve ÖIAG or provide the holding with more competencies and responsibilities. While SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann is in favour of sever ÖIAG, ÖVP Vice Chancellor Josef Pröll said its importance should be increased by being assigned with more tasks.Michaelis, who reportedly earns 750,000 Euros annually, defended ÖIAG today by describing it was the “only protective shield” against attempted political interferences.The holding currently manages the Republic of Austria’s interest in Post AG, oil and gas group OMV, and telecommunication services provider Telekom Austria (TA).