The state aid package, which Lufthansa shareholders approved almost unanimously on Thursday, is worth nine billion euros. The largest airline in Europe is saved – and with it the subsidiary airline Swiss.
For weeks there was uncertainty about the outcome of the vote: Heinz Hermann Thiele (79), with 15 percent of the largest single shareholder in the German group, only announced his approval on the evening before the meeting. That the multi-billionaire finally agreed did not surprise the aviation expert Tim van Beveren (59): “Neither Thiele nor the German government could afford to found Lufthansa.”
The federal government in Berlin grants Lufthansa loans and silent participations. And in return he gets 20 percent of the shares – at a price well below the market price. At the Annual General Meeting, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr (53) made it clear: “The stabilization package is not a gift. We will have to work hard to repay it down to the last cent. » Because Spohr wants the state to get out of the group as quickly as possible, he announced that he would completely destroy the federal funds by 2023.
100 planes less
This is impossible without tough restructuring measures. Lufthansa will take 100 of its 763 aircraft out of service. 22,000 of the almost 140,000 jobs are available.
But Spohr’s employees fight back with their hands and feet. The cabin union Ufo achieved a success even before the annual general meeting: There will be no layoffs among the cabin staff.
Negotiations with the unions of ground staff and pilots are likely to be even tougher for the Lufthansa leadership. In addition, the rescue package also increases the political pressure on CEO Spohr to keep his hands off the staff. But he has to save. So the question is: how?
Swiss is the most profitable airline
“If things got really bad, Lufthansa would have to sell the silverware,” says aviation expert Stefan Eiselin (52). That means: Spohr would have to sell airlines and technical companies.
However, the most valuable company in the Lufthansa network is Swiss. Will it be on sale soon? “The group would only choose this option in an emergency,” says Eiselin. “Because Swiss is the most profitable airline in the Lufthansa network and is very closely integrated into the group.”
Andreas Wittmer (46), head of the Center for Aviation Competence at the University of St. Gallen, also says: “Selling Swiss is the ultimate ratio (the last resort; ed.).” The situation is different at Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines. “The two airlines have been showing poor results for years – even though the aviation industry has been booming since 2010.”
Exclusive landing rights in Zurich
But how much would the Swiss cost? The airline is not rated on the stock exchange itself: its share capital is 100 percent held by Lufthansa. The value of Swiss is therefore negotiable.
One thing is clear: Swiss has a high-quality fleet and exclusive landing rights in Zurich. This market access increases their value. In addition, the airline has generated more profits in recent years than Lufthansa, which is about five times larger.
“If Swiss were up for sale, it would have to be paid a considerable price,” says Andreas Wittmer. “But that only applies if they could still have partnerships in Lufthansa or another network after the sale. Because without this access, Swiss can hardly survive sustainably. »
In the negotiations for a financial injection for Swiss, the Greens are calling for a price limit for flights from Switzerland. No ticket should cost less than a hundred francs, the eco-party proposed for tomorrow’s meeting of the Transport Commission.
“It cannot be that this deal will result in tax money going into Swiss coffers without any requirements,” said the Greens’ parliamentary group leader Aline Trede (36, BE).
With the exception of the air ticket tax, aviation makes no contribution to achieving the climate targets, the Green National Councilor continued: “But now the Swiss should be supported and subsidized via the state budget for dumping flights. We are resisting this! »