Ryanair Holdings Plc has announced that it has entered into a binding agreement with Niki Lauda which, pending regulatory approval, will see the Irish budget carrier acquiring up to 75% of LaudaMotion (OE, Vienna).

LaudaMotion is an Austrian AOC holder owned by Niki Lauda. It recently acquired many of the assets, including A320 aircraft, of the former Niki (HG, Vienna), and will shortly start a range of scheduled and charter services from Germany, Austria and Switzerland primarily to leisure destinations around the Mediterranean.

In a statement, Ryanair said that under its agreement with Lauda, it would acquire an initial 24.9% stake in LaudaMotion which will then rise, as soon as possible, to 75% subject to EU Competition approval. Niki Lauda will chair the Board of the airline and oversee the implementation of his strategy to build a successful Austrian low fare carrier. Ryanair will provide financial and managerial support to LaudaMotion as well as six wet-leased aircraft for the Summer 2018 season which will bring the Austrian carrier's overall fleet to 21 aircraft.

The cost of this 75% investment in LaudaMotion (if approved by the EU) will be less than EUR50 million (USD61.6 million) although Ryanair will provide an additional EUR50 million for Year I start up and operating costs. Both Lauda and Ryanair will work with the existing management team of LaudaMotion and expect the airline to reach profitability by Year III of operations if their plan to grow the business to a fleet of at least 30 Airbus aircraft is successful.

“We look forward to working in partnership with Niki Lauda to successfully develop his vision for a successful Austrian low fares airline to service the schedule and charter markets," Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said. "The LaudaMotion AOC will support a fleet of Airbus aircraft which is something we have hoped to develop within the Ryanair Group for some years."

LaudaMotion is set to begin commercial flight operations on March 25. It will operate as a passenger charter specialist proffering A320 Family capacity to Condor (DE, Frankfurt Int'l) and, subject to confirmation, Eurowings (EW, Düsseldorf Int'l).