Pang Bids for Air Berlin

Chinese forwarding agent Jonathan Pang his thrown his hat into the ring, bidding for insolvent carrier Air Berlin. His competitors are no less than Lufthansa, easyjet and Thomas Cook Group member leisure carrier Condor, among others.

Parchim Airport owner Jonathan Pang
Parchim Airport owner Jonathan Pang

Is it braveness, hubris, a PR gag, or a rather profoundly calculated quote? Fact is that Parchim Airport owner Jonathan Pang has announced his interest in taking over Air Berlin and intends to translocate the carrier from Berlin Tegel Airport to Parchim. The single-runway airport, a former Soviet military base, is located half way between Berlin and Hamburg, Germany’s two largest cities by inhabitants. Pang purchased Parchim back in 2007 to develop the airport as transit point for cargo shipments flown in from China and distributed all over Europe. These plans, however, failed completely making Parchim into one of the quietest airports in Germany due to the absence of air traffic, except for occasional charter missions.

Deadline expires Friday
How Pang intends financing the deal he did not reveal, nor did he say if he wants to acquire Air Berlin completely or just parts of it. All he told the press is that he will submit his bid until today (15 Sep), 2 pm CET, when the deadline for potential buyers to place their tender offers expires. “We have been informed that Air Berlin is looking for a reliable investor for a takeover, and we would like to express our interest and our intention in this matter,” is what he told the media.

Keen vision
Pang’s Air Berlin bid is a cornerstone of his ambitions, backed by a number of potential investors, to build a large outlet center next to Parchim Airport. Once realized, China produced consumer goods, garments or household effects would be displayed and offered for sale. However, the entire project had to be put on the back burner due to the absence of traffic rights to operate line-haul flights between Chinese cities and Parchim Airport. In contrast, all Chinese carriers prefer flying to Frankfurt, Munich or Dusseldorf, and now to Hahn when requesting traffic rights, preventing Pang’s keen outlet visions to become reality. 

Will AB become PangAir in future?  -  photo: hs
Will AB become PangAir in future? - photo: hs

A sensation seems less than likely
Seeing things from Pang’s perspective, Air Berlin could be the right tool to overcome the deadlock. The carrier holds traffic rights for a number of intercontinental routes between Germany and China, enabling Pang to start line-haul flights, should he succeed in getting a slice of the airline’s bankruptcy assets.
Most experts, however, doubt this. The decision, which of the bidders will be awarded sizeable slices of the Air Berlin pie will be announced on Monday, 25 September.

Favorite to take the lion’s share is national carrier Lufthansa, followed by easyjet and a bidder group comprising Austrian national and former Formula One champion Nikki Lauda and leisure carrier Condor. A further bidder is an investment group represented by entrepreneur Hans Rudolf Woehrl who had announced plans to take over AB as a whole, spending €500 million for acquiring the airline. However, his prospect of success is considered to be very low. 
It can be expected that Air Berlin subsidiary Leisure Cargo will closely monitor the decision with great interest. 
Meanwhile, AB’s flight operations are back to normal again, following a two-day lasting disruption of flights on Tuesday and Wednesday, caused by sudden sick notes of roughly 200 pilots. An illegal strike costing the airline estimated €5 million, thus aggravating the carrier’s difficult financial situation even further.  

Heiner Siegmund

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