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EU clears Virgin's buy of UK airline Flybe subject to release of slots

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By Reuters
EU clears Virgin's buy of UK airline Flybe subject to release of slots
A Flybe Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 airplane taxis at City Airport in London, Britain, September 3, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay   -   Copyright  Hannah Mckay(Reuters)
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union antitrust regulators cleared on Friday the acquisition of British airline Flybe <FLYB.L> by Connect Airways, a consortium created by Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group <STOB.L> and investment adviser Cyrus.

However, the final approval of the deal, which was announced in January, is conditional on the release by Connect Airways of slots for the routes connecting the English city of Birmingham to Amsterdam and Paris, the EU executive said in a statement.

Brussels was concerned that after the merger those routes could have fallen under a near monopoly in favour of the Franco-Dutch giant Air France-KLM <AIRF.PA>, which has acquired Virgin Atlantic together with Delta and the Virgin Group of Richard Branson.

To allay the EU Commission’s concerns, Connect Airways committed to the release of five daily slot pairs at Amsterdam Schiphol airport and three daily slot pairs at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

“The commitments fully address the competition concerns identified by the Commission,” the EU executive said.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio, editing by Robin Emmott)