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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 April 2007, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Lufthansa mulls Iberia bid move
Iberia plane
Spain's flagship carrier is a takeover target
German airline Lufthansa has confirmed its interest in buying Spanish national carrier Iberia.

A spokesman for Germany's biggest airline said Iberia was "of strategic interest to Lufthansa in principle".

However, he reiterated comments made by Lufthansa's boss that the Spanish firm was currently "too expensive".

Iberia revealed last month that private equity firm Texas Pacific Group was targeting the airline with a 3.4bn-euro (2.3bn; $4.5bn) takeover approach.

Takeover rumours surrounding the airline have seen Iberia's shares soar by almost 80% in the last six months.

An "open skies" deal between the US and Europe is set to drive consolidation in the airline industry, analysts say.

"Deal possible"

German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche reported that Lufthansa boss Wolfgang Mayrhuber had put together a team of managers and outside experts to analyse a possible counter bid for Iberia.

A combined Lufthansa-Iberia would create a European giant carrying about 70 million passengers a year, rivalling current European market leader Air France-KLM.

"A deal in April is possible," WirtschaftsWoche reported. "If someone else now goes and buys Iberia, it'll either be off the market or it'll be on offer at an even higher price in two years time."

Texas Pacific's 3.4bn-euro approach values Iberia at 3.6 euros per share, although shares in the carrier closed up at 3.99 euros on the Madrid stock exchange on Friday, suggesting investors believe a higher bid is likely.

British Airways has previously been linked to a possible bid approach for Iberia.

The UK carrier owns 10% of the Spanish airline, and has first refusal to buy another 32%.

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