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EU likely to approve 1.7 billion euros state aid for Berlin airport - sources

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A EU flag is seen outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels

BERLIN (Reuters) - The European Commission is likely to approve 1.7 billion euros ($1.93 billion) in state aid for Berlin airport to help ensure it does not go bankrupt, several people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

Operators of the Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt airport that opened in 2020 have applied for 1.734 billion euros in aid made available through the Temporary Framework scheme to firms hit hard by the crisis. The airport opened almost a decade later than planned and in the middle of a global slump in air travel due to COVID-19.

Sources told Reuters there were positive signals that the Commission would give the green light for the entire 1.7 billion euros and the decision could be made from Friday.

Airport operator FBB declined to comment.

The European Commission declined to comment on aid for the airport. It said it was in contact with German authorities and was urgently assessing claims related to the pandemic.

Germany's transport ministry said it expected the procedure to be completed in a timely manner.

FBB needs a total of 2.4 billion euros so even if the European Commission allows the 1.7 billion euros it will need to fill the gap, probably using other forms of aid from its owners.

The states of Berlin and Brandenburg each hold a 37% stake in FBB and the German federal government owns 26%.

The so-called Temporary Framework has allowed EU countries to pump in more than 3 trillion euros to thousands of companies across the bloc.

The coronavirus crisis has led to a slump in passenger numbers to just under 10 million in 2021. This year, FBB aims to attract 17 million passengers, down from almost 36 million passengers in 2019.

($1 = 0.8815 euros)

(Reporting by Klaus Lauer and Philip Blenkinsop; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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