FR0811-Kurs LH Brussels AirlinesLufthansa acquires an equity stake in Brussels Airlines

By Volker K. Thomalla

The consolidation of the airline industry in Europe is in full swing. Today there is little left of the colourful diversity that once prevailed. At present airlines have a choice of three "states of aggregation": either they buy up other airlines or they look for a purchaser, otherwise bankruptcy beckons. Today it looks as if only three of the traditional network carriers in Europe will survive: Air France/KLM, British Airways and Deutsche Lufthansa AG. Of these, Lufthansa has been particularly diligent at doing its homework and is in a very strong financial position. 2008 looks as if it will be another year of healthy results for the German carrier. Even so, Lufthansa has continually invested in its own fleet and, with the exception of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A300 sub-fleet which have been around now for quite some time, its aircraft are typically modern.

Again, when it comes to investment in other companies, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, Chairman of the Executive Board, has proved very adroit and has established a strong position for the Lufthansa Group thanks to a successful mixture of affiliations and takeovers. One example here is Air Dolomiti, today a fully-owned subsidiary. This airline is a recognised "home carrier" for the northern Italy business region and its routes provide a link into the Lufthansa hubs of Munich and Frankfurt. From the spring of 2009 Air Dolomiti will also fly to other European destinations from Milan with six Airbus A319's, filling the gap left by Alitalia in Milan.

At the end of September the Lufthansa supervisory board approved a further move by the Executive Board: the acquisition of an equity stake in Brussels Airlines in Belgium. This airline is well represented in Europe and Africa and will be able to fill in some of the blanks on Lufthansa's map of its global route network. The acquisition will take place in stages, so that Lufthansa can check whether its expectations will be met or not.

But that is not all. There are other candidate carriers around which would be only too happy to slip under the protective wings of the airline with the distinctive crane logo, as they have seen from the example of SWISS that a takeover by Lufthansa does not have to mean the loss of one's own identity. Austrian Airlines and SAS are on the market and are well acquainted with Lufthansa as Star Alliance partners. Beyond these examples, Lufthansa's acquisition programme is likely to slow down in Europe, since on the one hand its dense route network will already cover all the attractive markets in Europe, while on the other hand its capacity to absorb further affiliations and acquisitions is slowly reaching its limits.

From FLUG REVUE 11/2008

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