EU wants more time to look at airline merger

The European Commission yesterday extended its review of the planned merger of Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air (OA). The Commission set a new deadline of February 2 to rule on the deal, according to a filing on its website. It didn’t specify a reason for the extension. The Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, started an in-depth antitrust review of the plan in July amid concerns that combining the two airlines would hurt competition. Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said last month that the proposed merger is still facing ‘some difficulties’ as EU authorities try to overcome antitrust concerns regarding the deal. The airlines want to merge to better compete with foreign rivals, but the combined carrier would dominate Greece’s domestic market, with a fleet of 64 aircraft and a work force of 5,850. Shares in Aegean Airlines dipped 1.39 percent to 2.13 euros on the Athens bourse yesterday, while MIG, which owns OA, added 2.70 percent to 0.76 euros.