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Past no answer to Lufthansa future says CEO

FRANKFURT: The Lufthansa Group has reported revenues of €30.01 billion for 2014 and an operating profit of €954 million – up 36.5 percent from 2013. The company says the figure would have been €232 million higher if not for 15 days lost through pilot strikes.

The result was helped by a €364 million decline in fuel costs and a €351 million benefit from changes made to the group's aircraft and engine depreciation policy. However, 2014 net income fell 82.4 percent from €313 million to €55 million due to what Lufthansa describes as the drop in market value of "exchangeable notes for JetBlue shares and the adverse impact of the changes in the value of fuel price hedging options".

Lufthansa 1960s 2Reporting its results under German GAAP rules, the group acknowledges it had to transfer funds from its capital reserve in order to offset an overall loss of €732 million – a decision that has resulted in no shareholder dividend for 2014.

Commenting on the results Carsten Spohr, chairman and CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG said: "On the one hand, all the business segments of the Lufthansa group are profitable and, with an operating profit of almost €1 billion, we achieved our projection in a far-from-easy year. At the same time, though, with our high investments in modern aircraft and premium services, we simply have to further increase our operating profit."

This year, its 60th anniversary since a post-WW2 re-launch, Lufthansa expects an adjusted EBIT - earnings before interest, taxes and net of disposals and extraordinary items - of over €1.5 billion.

"Given the results that we achieved in our core business, we can no longer regard sticking to inherited uneconomic structures as an option for the future of the Lufthansa group," Spohr added.

The logistics segment - which includes Lufthansa Cargo and the belly capacity of Austrian Airlines - reported revenue of €2.4 billion in 2014, basically unchanged from the previous year, and an operating result of €100 million - up 26.6 percent from the previous 12 months. The airline carried 1.7 million tonnes, down 2.7 percent; revenue tonne-kilometres fell 1.4 percent to 8.6 billion and the load factor remained virtually unchanged at 69.7 percent.

Over the past five years Lufthansa Cargo has seen its cargo revenue and operating result decline from a high point in 2010 of €2.8 billion and €310 million respectively.

The company operates 16 MD11 freighters and five 777Fs – plus a 50 percent share in eight more 777Fs via its Aerologic joint-venture with DHL. The freighter fleet contributed 40.1 percent to last year's total Lufthansa cargo capacity while the passenger airline added a further 50.1 percent.

Lufthansa Cargo says it attaches "great importance" to its 'Global Partnership Programme' with 11 major logistics companies: Agility, Ceva, Dachser, DB Schenker, DHL Global Forwarding, Expeditors, Hellmann, Kühne+Nagel, Panalpina, UPS and UTi. Collectively, this group provides the airline with "around half" its annual cargo revenue.

In an apparently unrelated but coincident announcement, one of the partners - DB Schenker - has declared the sudden resignation of its CEO Thomas Lieb. He leaves the company at the end of March with no replacement in sight.

The rapid departure of Lieb follows a decision earlier this month by DB Schenker to settle a pending U.S. court case against three airlines for alleged cargo price-fixing. At the time it said it would continue a separate action in Germany against Lufthansa and 10 other airlines claiming damages and interest totaling US$2.25 billion.

Under Lieb's leadership the logistics company said it would pursue Lufthansa "on behalf of the German taxpayer" despite the airline's whistleblower immunity from an original European Commission cartel prosecution in 2010.

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