HOPES have been raised that the Aberdeen-based regional arm of airline BMI may be sold to a consortium of local businessmen, securing nearly 400 jobs, after its new owner said it was not part of the company's long-term plans.

International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, yesterday finalised its £172.5 million purchase of BMI from Lufthansa and confirmed plans to integrate the heavily loss-making airline into BA's operations.

But it said that BMI Regional and low-cost airline bmibaby "are not part of IAG's long-term plans". It added in a statement: "IAG will pursue options to exit these businesses and more details will be provided in due course."

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Lufthansa had tried to dispose of both bmibaby and BMI Regional prior to the sale but failed to secure a buyer, prompting union concerns yesterday for the future of around 800 staff at both airlines.

However, a group of investors known as Granite is understood to be close to finalising a deal to buy BMI Regional, which flies from Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh to a number of UK and European airports.

The consortium nearly reached a deal late last year which fell through after one of the backers pulled out, a source said. "They're about 95% there. There have been hopes raised in the past but there is a new investor in place," the source added.

The consortium is being led by Ian Woodley and Graeme Ross, who founded Business Air before it was sold to British Midland in 1996 and changed its name to BMI Regional. Another key player is Robert Sturman, who was chief executive of British World Airlines for a decade.

Last week, IAG warned that the takeover of BMI was likely to lead to up to 1200 job losses.