Lebedev to sell Blue Wings to Aeroflot for €1

Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev has offered to sell his German charter airline Blue Wings AG to Aeroflot for €1 because it faces unspecified “financial difficulties”.

The purchase will allow state-run Aeroflot, in which Lebedev owns a 29 percent stake to enter the European market, he said yesterday.However Aeroflot’s efforts to enter the European market were dealt a blow earlier in the week after it lost its bid for a majority stake in the Czech Republic’s national carrier Ceske Aerolinie AS after the Czech government refused to allow the Russian carrier to proceed to the second round of the bidding process.

Lebedev’s National Reserve Corp. has spent €450m developing Blue Wings and buying new fleet, he said.

Aeroflot today reported a decline in its passenger numbers in March. The state-controlled airline carried 13.4 per cent fewer passengers in the first quarter than in the same period of 2008, a sign of continuing weakness in Russian consumer spending. However it said it had outperformed Russia’s airline industry as a whole in the first quarter.