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Lufthansa folds Brussels Airlines into Eurowings, keeping dual brands. LH has many balls in the air

On 15-Dec-2016 Lufthansa’s Executive Board formally decided to exercise its call option for the 55% of shares it does not already own in the parent company of Brussels Airlines. The deal will close by the beginning of Jan-2017. It had been expected that Lufthansa would fold Brussels Airlines, at least partly, into its Eurowings low cost brand. Lufthansa has now confirmed that the new acquisition will join Eurowings and be fully integrated into the Group as of 2018.

Nevertheless, there are clear differences between Brussels Airlines' business model and that of Eurowings. Brussels Airlines is a network airline (and a Star Alliance member), while Eurowings is primarily a point-to-point airline. Furthermore, Brussels Airlines is not low cost in CASK terms, although, ominously, its unit cost is below Eurowings'.

Strangely, and perhaps tellingly, Brussels Airlines will retain its brand while adding that of Eurowings. This hints at the tension between Lufthansa's urge to expand Eurowings rapidly to compete with LCCs and the necessity to work out exactly how Brussels Airlines can fit into its low cost operation. Perhaps the delay between completion of the Brussels Airlines acquisition and its integration into Eurowings will give time for further refinements to the model. In short, Lufthansa has a lot of balls in the air. Where they will fall will be critical to its future.

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