Deutsche Lufthansa AG
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- Deutsche Lufthansa AG
Lufthansa Aviation Center
60546 Frankfurt / Main
Ph: +49 69 696 28010
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Deutsche Lufthansa AG is a global aviation group which operates in five primary business segments: Passenger air transport, logistics, MRO, catering and IT services. Originally established in Jan-1926, Deutsche Lufthansa AG maintains its Corporate headquarters in Cologne, Germany while several departments are located in the Lufthansa Aviation Center at Frankfurt Airport. The company is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (FWB: LHA).
Although Lufthansa is involved in a range of industry segments, its core business is the provision of passenger air transport services, with the collective passenger airline group accounting for over two-thirds of the company's total revenue. These services are delivered through its numerous airline subsidiaries.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG holds majority stakes in a number of airlines including:
- Lufthansa (100%, since 1954)
- Lufthansa CityLine GmbH (100%, since Mar-1992)
- Lufthansa Cargo AG (100%, since 1994)
- Air Dolomiti S.p.A. (100%, since Jul-2003)
- Eurowings Luftverkehrs AG (100%, since 1-Apr-2004)
- Eurowings Europe GmbH (23-Jun-2016)
- Swiss International Air Lines (Swiss Global Air Lines) (100%, since 1-Jul-2007)
- Edelweiss Air AG (100%, since Nov-2008)
- Germanwings GmbH (100% since 1-Jan-2009)
- Austrian Airlines AG (100%, since Sep-2009)
- Tyrolean Airways Tiroler Luftfahrt GmbH (merged with Austrian on 01-Apr-2015)
Deutsche Lufthansa AG also holds minority stakes in a number of airlines including:
- SunExpress (50%, since Apr-1990);
- Brussels Airlines (45%, since 15-Sep-2008), Lufthansa AG exercised a call option to acquire the remaining 55% stake in the carrier via an SN Airholding acquisition, which is expected to be complete in Jan-2017;
- Aerologic GmbH (50%, since 19-Jun-2009).
- Eurowings Europe;
- Germanwings, and;
- Brussels Airlines (integration is scheduled for completion in 2018).
Lufthansa plans to secure the outstanding 55% stake in Brussels Airlines (held by SN Airholding to effectively become wholly-owned) by exercising a call option to acquire SN Airholding. The closing of the EUR2.6 million (USD2.8 million) transaction is expected to take place by the end of Jan-2017, as SN Airholding shares will be transferred to a consortium of 30 shareholders. Deutsche Lufthansa AG plans to integrate Brussels Airlines within the Eurowings Group as part of its hybrid hub model. Brussels Airlines will continue to offer both short-haul and long-haul services, with a diversified tariff structure for the different target groups.
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When Lufthansa began to transfer point-to-point short haul routes to its LCC Germanwings in 2013 it specifically excluded routes to/from its two main hubs at Munich and Frankfurt. Although its two main hubs have been less penetrated by LCCs than many other major European airports, this is changing. Moreover, competitor LCCs are growing rapidly across Germany and in other Lufthansa Group home markets. Even Air France-KLM established a Munich base for its LCC Transavia in summer 2016 (but this is under review). More ominously, Ryanair is to enter Frankfurt in summer 2017.
Lufthansa first revealed in summer 2016 that it was considering opening a Munich base for its LCC operations, now grouped under the Eurowings brand. On 21-Dec-2016 it announced plans to base four A320 family aircraft at Munich for 32 Eurowings routes from summer 2017.
Perhaps it was always inevitable that Eurowings would eventually extend to selected routes from Frankfurt and Munich, but agreements with pilots were understood to have limited the group's flexibility. Confirmation that the operation of Eurowings routes at Munich will be outsourced to airberlin under wet lease appears to have loosened this restriction. Eurowings routes from Frankfurt are also being considered.
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.
There can be no understating the symbolic change in mindset of Lufthansa agreeing to partner with Etihad. Lufthansa has spent the better part of a decade rallying against Gulf airlines to the press, lobbying in Europe's power corridors and seeking a range of aeropolitical measures to wind back new competitors. Etihad has been the prime target for its investment and ongoing top-ups in a range of European airlines including Lufthansa's home competitor, the failing airberlin. Despite that, it is not well known that the two have come close to a liaison before, suggesting that each sees an intrinsic logic in a relationship.
The partnership has potential to be more significant than Emirates-Qantas, Qatar-IAG or Etihad-AF-KLM. But for now it is limited in scope and caution should be exercised in extrapolating too far at this stage.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr is seeking new growth platforms that sidestep the flagship business' uncompromising unions who would seemingly prefer a status quo that exists only in memory. Their support will be necessary if the partnership is to work and grow. Then Lufthansa, which has rallied the Star Alliance and JV partners against Gulf airlines, will need to explain its change of heart. For now Lufthansa will not partner on Etihad's beyond-Abu Dhabi network, a move that would embrace the fundamental business plan of Etihad and peers. That upside remains a matter for speculation.
Pilot strikes at Lufthansa. Again. A strike ballot among British Airways cabin crew. A guilty verdict for Air France workers who assaulted an executive during a union protest. These were all headlines in late Nov-2016, following Air France pilot and cabin crew strikes in summer 2016. Labour relations at Europe's three biggest legacy airline groups are an ongoing challenge.
A CAPA report in Jun-2016 highlighted the growing number of articles on CAPA's website mentioning the word 'strike'. It raised the possibility that if the rate continued through the year, 2016 could be the biggest year for strike-related articles since before the global financial crisis. With a little under a month still to go, this year has already comfortably passed this milestone.
To a large extent labour unrest grows as airline industry profits increase. However, rather than hoping for an industry downturn to reverse the rise in the cycle of strikes, airline CEOs are talking tough – a line long taken by IAG's Willie Walsh. Lufthansa's Carsten Spohr has said that taking on the pilots is "about the future of Lufthansa", noting that it has “no chance of survival" if it gives in to pay demands (Bloomberg, 24-Nov-2016).
IAG's Capital Markets Day on 4-Nov-2016 was the first since its formation in 2011 when it lowered any of its medium term financial targets. It cut its 2016-2020 average EBITDAR goal, in spite of adding in Aer Lingus for the first time. This followed two cuts to 2016 operating profit guidance during the course of this year, as a result of "a tough operating environment". It has been hit by adverse currency movements, mainly resulting from the UK's Brexit vote, in addition to ATC strikes and terrorist events.
To its credit, IAG has responded to the more challenging trading conditions by lowering its planned capacity growth and capital expenditure during its 2016-2020 strategic plan. These steps are necessary if it is to have a chance of meeting its ambitious goal to sustain a 15% return on invested capital. This target is unchanged, despite the lower profit outlook.
In 3Q2016, IAG's rolling four quarter return on capital fell, after rising more or less continuously since it began to target this measure in 2013. It has consistently been more profitable than either of its two main European legacy airline group rivals (Air France-KLM and Lufthansa). Nevertheless, the downward step highlights the challenge in meeting its own demanding target.
Ryanair and Fraport announced on 2-Nov-2016 that the Irish ultra-LCC will open its 85th base at Frankfurt Airport, Lufthansa's main hub. Ryanair will base two aircraft at the airport and launch four new leisure routes in Mar-2017. With a daily departure to each of Alicante, Faro, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca, it expects to attract 400,000 passengers pa.
Although Ryanair has been increasing its primary airport presence for some time, CEO Michael O'Leary had previously said that Frankfurt Airport was one of the few, alongside London Heathrow and Paris CDG, that Ryanair would not serve. Frankfurt was seen not only as too expensive, but also as too congested for Ryanair's short turnaround times. Details of Ryanair's agreement with Frankfurt Airport have not been disclosed, but it is likely that the airline has secured favourable terms in return for traffic growth targets.
Ryanair's move into Frankfurt is relatively small compared with its operations in Berlin Schoenefeld and Cologne/Bonn, but this development supports its growth ambitions in Germany. Ryanair's average revenue per passenger is half that of Lufthansa's network airlines. Its move increases the competitive pressure on Germany's national airline.