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With its headquarters in Cologne and primary hubs at Frankfurt and Munich airports and secondary hubs in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Milan, Lufthansa is one of the largest airlines in Europe. Operating a large fleet of narrow and wide-body Airbus, Boeing and Embraer aircraft, Lufthansa operates an extensive network of regional services within Germany and Europe as well as Asia, the Middle East, North America, South America and Africa. A publicly listed company, Lufthansa is a founding member of Star Alliance.
Location of Lufthansa main hub (Frankfurt Airport)
Lufthansa share price
2,633 total articles
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If airline groups can be thought of as families, then profitable British Airways is the strait-laced older sister of the petulant, unreliable and loss-making Iberia. BA has learnt from its hedonistic, free-spending youth and matured into the sensible, trustworthy one. Parents are not meant to have favourites, but it is clear that IAG looks on BA with a glint in the parental eye, while Iberia is constantly being scolded. IAG refuses to buy its irresponsible Spanish child any new toys until it mends its ways, while it now trusts her British sister with shiny new 787s and A350s.
Nevertheless, BA should not allow itself to feel too smug. It remains much more dependent on a single hub (Heathrow) and on a single intercontinental market (North America), but less connected to domestic and European markets than its peers. Moreover, cost benchmarking points to the need for a reduction in CASK, which it has not managed since before the merger. As any parent knows, it is not just the children that are most visibly struggling that need attention.
There are 103 A380s in service as of early May-2013. Emirates has 33 and Singapore Airlines has 19, so when assessing network scheduling, these two and their hubs predominate: of the 1,048 weekly A380 flights, 402 are from Emirates alone. Dubai and Singapore airport see the most A380 flights.
But there are some less predictable statistics. The airport to see the most A380 operators is Hong Kong followed by Paris and Los Angeles. The largest A380 destination that is not (yet) an A380-hub is London Heathrow. The UK and USA are the most common A380 destinations after Australia, Singapore and the UAE. Asia, not the Middle East, sees the most A380 flights; South America sees none. Guangzhou-Shanghai Pudong is the shortest A380 route at 1,202km while Los Angeles-Melbourne is the longest at 12,751km. Qantas and Lufthansa have the highest average sector length while Thai Airways is placing the most number of cycles – about two – on its aircraft per day. Qantas and Air France are placing the least (just over one).
Weakness in long-haul markets from Brazil continued to pressure LATAM Airlines Group during 1Q2013 as competitive capacity increases triggered depressed loads and unit revenues in its international network. But LATAM’s efforts to restore strength in the Brazilian domestic market and the relative strength in the group’s Spanish speaking companies should help to offset some of the continuing pressure in LATAM’s international network.
The company’s attempts to bolster international service during the last year to offset some of the continuing weakness in the Brazilian domestic market have faltered somewhat due to competitive capacity increases by American and United in the US-Brazil market, and LATAM’s own expansion of supply in the market. The company’s overall capacity increase in its international markets during 1Q2013 was 12.3%.
European airline margins have underperformed other regions for years. There are many reasons for this, but our analysis suggests that Europe’s relative lack of consolidation may be a significant one, since margins appear to be correlated with market concentration. Even after a number of significant deals over the past decade, the European market is less concentrated than North America, where consolidation has gone further, to the benefit of margins. Europe is also less concentrated than Asia-Pacific (analysed as its sub-regions), whose margins have consistently been the highest.
If consolidation brings structural benefits, are there still European deals that can make a difference? Europe has a long tail of small carriers, which are unlikely to have a significant impact, but comparison with North America points to the potential for further combinations among the top five. Nevertheless, there are hurdles to such deals, not least of which are the ongoing restructuring programmes at Europe’s Big Three and the incompatibility of LCC/FSC mergers, but some second tier groups could be targets.
Two of the European Big Three reported 1Q2013 results within two days, so we can’t resist a comparison. Air France-KLM’s quarterly operating loss of EUR530 million was EUR171 million below Lufthansa’s. Air France-KLM shaved net debt from EUR6.0 billion at the end of 2012 to EUR5.9 billion; Lufthansa’s net debt is less than one third of this. AF-KLM’s 1Q RASK grew by 1.2%; Lufthansa’s by 2.8%.
Air France-KLM makes losses in Europe, where Lufthansa now claims a profit. In an attempt to fix this, Air France-KLM has Transavia for some leisure routes, Hop for French regional point-to-point and some hub feed, Air France’s provincial bases strategy (under review) for non-hub French routes and both Air France and KLM for everything else. Lufthansa has Germanwings for non-hub routes and Lufthansa for hub feed in Germany.
For FY2013, Air France-KLM isn’t saying whether it can improve on 2012’s EUR300 million operating loss, only that it aims to cut unit costs (ex fuel and currency) and net debt, whereas Lufthansa aims to beat last year’s EUR524 million profit.
Lufthansa on 2-May-2013 reported a 1Q2013 operating loss of EUR359 million, an identical loss as in the same period in 2012. All the main business segments improved their operating result, but restructuring costs weighed on the group result.
The quarter was characterised by capacity cuts, yield and load factor increases, and restructuring aimed at future profit improvements. Labour unrest, never far from the surface, returned during the quarter. Recent union agreements have reduced the risk in this area, although talks with the pilot union are on-going.
Pricing was generally fairly healthy, with yield and load factor growing, but weakness was again apparent in Asia-Pacific. On the analyst conference call to discuss 1Q2013 earnings, Lufthansa CFO Simone Menne did not rule out the possibility of using new partnerships as a more offensive solution to Lufthansa’s Asian problems, than the more defensive approach of capacity cuts and cabin mix changes.
Management will need to keep juggling these and other key issues – such as the ‘new’ Germanwings, office closures and headcount reductions – if it is to have a chance of reaching its FY2015 operating result target of EUR2.5 billion.
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