Lufthansa: Increase in international airline mergers inevitable


Deutsche Lufthansa AG, the German airline that acquired three European carriers last year, said industry mergers combining partners from different parts of the world will rise as companies seek higher margins.

“The trend toward consolidation will become more intercontinental in the next years than is currently the case,” Stefan Lauer, the head of Lufthansa’s subsidiary airline brands including Austrian Airlines and British Midland, told reporters in Frankfurt late yesterday. “It remains an exciting topic.”

Lufthansa, Europe’s second-biggest airline, bought Brussels Airlines as well as the unprofitable Austrian and U.K. units last year as traffic and fares slumped during the recession. Worldwide announced airline mergers total $12.8 billion in 2010, compared with $8.2 billion for all of 2009. Deals this year include UAL Corp.’s acquisition of Continental Airlines Inc. and Santiago-based Lan Airlines SA’s purchase of Brazil’s TAM SA.

The German carrier is confident of reaching earnings goals this year as some divisions beat forecasts, Lauer said, without being more specific. The Cologne-based company has a target for operating profit to exceed last year’s 130 million euros ($164 million) as sales increase.

Load factors, or the proportion of seats filled, are at the highest levels ever for European traffic from Lufthansa’s main Frankfurt hub, Lauer said.