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Old March 23rd, 2005, 07:20 PM   #21
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Lufthansa Wins Support To Take Over Swiss Carrier
By TOM WRIGHT
23 March 2005
The New York Times

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, March 22 -- Deutsche Lufthansa said Tuesday that it had won approval for a staggered takeover of Swiss International Airlines, the successor to the defunct Swissair, setting a floating price for the embattled carrier.

Lufthansa's chief executive, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, and the head of Swiss International Airlines, Christoph Franz, signed an agreement in Zurich to push ahead with the takeover. The deal could be worth as much as 310 million euros ($405 million), and the 15 percent of free-floating stock could be valued up to 45 million euros ($58.8 million).

The remainder, which is held mostly by institutions and the Swiss government, could be worth as much as 265 million euros, depending on how the stock performs in its sector over the next few years, Lufthansa said in a statement. Lufthansa gave no per-share price.

The acquisition was approved by 83 percent of Swiss International's shareholders, including the Swiss government, which has the largest single stake at 20 percent. The boards of both carriers also approved the deal.

''Lufthansa will further expand its position as an internationally leading network carrier by integrating Swiss,'' the statement said, referring to the airline by its local name. Lufthansa said the deal would save about 160 million euros a year beginning in 2007.

The deal was completed as fears ebbed that a takeover by Lufthansa, Germany's national airline, could spark a nationalist backlash in Switzerland. Also, discontent over a perceived waste of taxpayers' money never materialized. The Swiss government spent about 600 million Swiss francs ($504.6 million) to reintroduce the airline in 2002 after it went bankrupt under its previous name, Swissair.

Since it first outlined its takeover plan last week, Lufthansa has been careful to stress that Swiss would keep its brand name, and Zurich's international airport would remain a major passenger hub. Air France's venture with KLM, in which both airlines kept their brands, is so far the biggest airline merger in Europe, where most carriers continue to operate on national lines.

Lufthansa said Tuesday that it would keep Zurich's airport on an ''equitable'' footing with its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich. Lufthansa also said it would also help Swiss raise its presence on long-haul routes by giving it two intercontinental jets from Lufthansa's fleet.

The deal would bring Swiss, which has yet to make a profit, into the Star Alliance, an operating partnership that includes Lufthansa, United Airlines, SAS and Varig of Brazil.
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Old March 27th, 2005, 09:18 AM   #22
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INTERVIEW-The man behind the brand sees future for Swiss
By Tom Armitage

ZURICH, March 22 (Reuters) - When Switzerland's new national carrier was unveiled in 2002, the brand name "swiss" was meant to lure in passengers with the promise of premium service, quality and proverbial Swiss reliability.

Now that German giant Lufthansa is stepping in to take over Swiss International Air Lines, and the move is likely to dent Switzerland's national pride, the creator of the "swiss" brand still is certain that the iconic white cross on a red background has a future.

"I don't think the brand will die full-stop. It would really have to be some unattractive arrogance on the side of Lufthansa to say they would kill this off," Tyler Brule told Reuters in a telephone interview.

During three years of cut-throat competition, rising fuel costs and a stumbling global economy, Swiss has not only failed to make a profit, but also to deliver on its ambitious plans to be a cut above the rest.

Even so, "they are sitting on what is still a good brand and has a great reputation in many markets around the world," said Brule, the founder of wallpaper, a style and fashion magazine.

Backed by Switzerland's reputation for neutrality and respectability, the airline can shuttle business people in style around Europe or travellers in safety to Africa and the Middle East, Brule said, as a kind of premium marque in the Lufthansa stable.

"You can't forget there are still many of the world's wealthiest individuals in Switzerland and new wealth coming into the country," he said.

A BENTLEY TO BAGHDAD?

Alternatively, Lufthansa could consider taking advantage of Switzerland's history of neutrality to make Swiss the first European carrier to serve all niche routes, flying into Kabul, Basra and Baghdad, he suggested.

"There are a number of things that rest within Swiss' DNA, which when Lufthansa does more due diligence, they will find there will be good marketing stories to be exploited," he said.

Brule acknowledges that early 2002 was a tough time to launch an airline with the September 11, 2001 attacks still in recent memory and a downturn in the travel industry underway.

"It was the wrong time for any carrier in Europe," he said.

Swiss was born in 2002 with a hefty cash injection from Swiss companies and the government by grafting regional carrier Crossair onto the remains of failed predecessor Swissair.

A series of air accidents, a crash over Swiss airspace and decisions made by the new airline's management - such as a move to save money by denying economy passengers free food and drinks on short-haul flights - also jinxed the early life of the new carrier, Brule said.

"The bullet should have been bitten much earlier, and if people are feeling upset about things now, then it's a little too late," he said.

As for the brand itself, Brule sees Lufthansa taking a leaf from the book of other German companies such Volkswagen or sports equipment maker Puma to shift up-market.

"From autos, fashion and sports goods, German companies have been very good at taking core brands and bolting premium brands on to them," he said. "If Lufthansa is the VW group, then Swiss becomes the new Bentley turbo."
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Old March 28th, 2005, 11:25 PM   #23
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Swiss airline: hawk turned pigeon in European sky wars

GENEVA, March 27 (AFP) - Switzerland's top airline, after being one of the hunters during the 1990s, succumbed to upheaval in the European air travel market last week to become the prey of German carrier Lufthansa.

The takeover of Swiss International Air Lines by its larger and healthier rival on Tuesday for a relatively low price of up to 300 million euros (405 million dollars) came after Switzerland's flag carrier had failed to fly out of problems left by its predecessor Swissair.

Yet, 10 years ago Swissair was a predator, pursuing a "hunter strategy" by buying up large stakes in Belgium's Sabena, AOM and Air Littoral in France, Italy's Volare, German charter company LTU, South African Airlines and the Polish carrier Lot.

That followed the collapse of merger talks with Dutch airline KLM -- now owned by Air France -- with Scandinavian SAS and Austrian Airlines in 1993, and an aggressive alliance strategy that tied in with the now ailing US Delta Airlines.

Before its expansion, Swissair was valued at about 4.3 billion Swiss francs (three billion dollars then).

"The mistake was for Swiss to go for this policy of taking minority shareholdings in AOM and in Sabena, where it didn't have control over the operations or cashflow," said Nick van den Brul, an analyst at BNP Paribas.

Switzerland's airline was partly hampered by being outside the European Union and not being allowed by EU rules to take a controlling stake in its prey at the time.

Swissair expansion was also largely funded by debt, helping to drive the group into bankruptcy in October 2001.

It was reincarnated under the name Swiss and took over Swissair's knowhow, visual identity, staff, infrastructure, flight slots and airliners with the help of about three billion Swiss francs in public and private investment.

But the new offspring was immediately battered by low-cost carriers driving down fares in Europe, a slump in air travel and rising fuel prices. Swiss cut its fleet and staff by one-third last year.

The hope is that Lufthansa's network will help feed passengers into Swiss's hub at Zurich airport and boost profitability.

"The key drive behind consolidation in Europe is how to organise short haul networks around hubs and how to leverage more, and more profitable, long haul flights out of those networks," van den Brul said.

Lufthansa's takeover of Swiss is the second-biggest deal of its kind in European history after the acquisition by Air France of KLM in 2004.

Industry executives have long predicted that mergers or takeovers will gain pace.

"All this appears logical. There is a necessary consolidation in the European market," said Jean-Cyril Spinetta, chairman of Air France-KLM.

Air France and KLM reached a critical size, and the Lufthansa Group is big enough to survive but might not yet have the mass necessary to reach optimum performance, according to analysts.

Lufthansa also sits at the head of the Star Alliance, combining routes with partners SAS, Austrian, and Britain's BMI -- in which it also holds a minority stake -- and 12 other airlines.

"Alliances work, but only so far, mergers work better because you have total control over who does what," van den Brul remarked.

Lufthansa chief executive Wolfgang Mayrhuber signalled more investment in Swiss but also said that more major acquisitions were not on the cards.

"We don't want to overload ourselves," he said in Frankfurt.

Company financial chief Karl-Ludwig Kley said that Lufthansa had not ruled out raising its stake in the parent company of regional low cost airline Germanwings above the current 49.5 percent.

Meanwhile, British Airways -- which had agreed on a tie-up with Swiss until the deal collapsed early last year -- has named Willie Walsh, the former chief of Ireland's Aer Lingus, as replacement for departing chief executive Rod Eddington.

Swiss's long-running courtship with Lufthansa was eased after a former executive at the German airline, Christoph Franz, took over as chief executive of Swiss last June.

Eddington had underlined BA's interest in the Spanish carrier Iberia.
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Old March 29th, 2005, 12:03 AM   #24
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Lufthansa eyes no more tie-ups after Swiss - paper

ZURICH, March 27 (Reuters) - Germany's Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) is not considering tie-ups with other airlines and is keeping cost cuts on the agenda for its future acquisition Swiss International Airlines , the company's chief told Swiss Sunday newspapers.

There has been speculation that Lufthansa could seek to expand further after agreeing to take over Swiss.

Lufthansa's Chief Executive Wolfgang Mayrhuber dismissed the idea of a partnership with Air France KLM (AIRF.PA).

"That seems extremely far-fetched to me," he said in an interview with Switzerland's NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

Mayrhuber added he had no other company currently in view for a tie-up, after agreeing to splash out on a deal worth up to 310 million euros ($403 million) with Swiss.

Loss-making Swiss would not be bailed out with a capital hike, Mayrhuber said, but would have to press on with its stringent programme of cost cuts.

"There is no reason (for a capital increase)," he told the SonntagsZeitung. "The restructuring steps will have a lasting influence."

Mayrhuber added that spinning off Swiss' regional network was an option for the airline.

"The management of Swiss already have a positive notion of this," he said.
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Old April 3rd, 2005, 04:13 AM   #25
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Swiss To Sell 15 Prop Jets As Part Of Lufthansa Takeover
1 April 2005

MUNICH (Dow Jones)--Swiss International Airlines Ltd. (SWIN.EB) Chief Executive Christoph Franz said Friday the airline has decided to sell 15 turboprop aircraft as the company restructures further.

Franz did not mention a buyer, price or other details.

German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA.XE) recently announced plans to take over the struggling Swiss carrier for EUR310 million.
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Old April 9th, 2005, 06:51 PM   #26
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FOCUS: Lufthansa-Swiss Deal Could Stroll Past Regulators
By Adam Cohen
08 April 2005

BRUSSELS (Dow Jones)--Lufthansa AG's (LHA.XE) takeover of Swiss International Inc. (SWIN.EB) might have less trouble clearing European regulators than first imagined.

When the deal was announced March 23, airline experts said European antitrust authorities would likely force the combined carrier to give up take-off and landing slots at its Frankfurt and Zurich hubs. But Zurich has plenty of spare capacity and Air Berlin, the main short-haul airline flying through more crowded Frankfurt, says it has no objections to the takeover.

Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest carrier, says it won't appeal to regulators. A company spokeswoman said the airline was happy with its current routes and saw no problems with the Lufthansa-Swiss slots in Frankfurt or Zurich.

When regulators approved Air France's (AKH) takeover of Dutch KLM, competitors did complain and the carriers were forced to give up 47 slots in Amsterdam and Paris. British low-cost carrier Easy Jet Plc (EZJ.LN) demanded even stiffer penalties and appealed the ruling.

The E.U. doesn't just rely on complaints from airlines before demanding concessions and they still could force Lufthansa and Swiss to give up slots to allow new entrants on certain routes.

"We have a great deal of experience dealing with cases in this sector," Philip Lowe, the Europe's top antitrust civil servant, said recently. "We look into competition on routes."

Airline analysts doubt they will press too hard though. "When two airlines get together there aren't usually monopoly issues except for traffic between their two hubs, said Mike Powell of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein.

Lufthansa and Swiss declined to comment on the takeover or the routes that regulators might scrutinize.

Zurich's international airport should be even less of an issue than Frankfurt, analysts say. The Swiss national carrier's declining traffic over the past few years has left the airport with "plenty of spare capacity," according to Klaus Linde, an airline specialist at SES Research in Hamburg.

"Lufthansa and Swiss aren't going to have to give up as much as Air France and KLM," Linde said.

The Lufthansa-Swiss deal could prompt regulators to look at international routes as both airlines fly to major international destinations like New York and Tokyo.

Analysts say European regulators might be less willing to force the airlines to give up international slots while Europe's fragmented air industry is consolidating.

"The competition issues are really within Europe at the moment," Linde said. "I don't think they (the commission) would want to look beyond that."
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Old April 9th, 2005, 06:57 PM   #27
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Swiss pilots threaten strike over job cuts

FRANKFURT, April 8 (Reuters) - Pilots at loss-making Swiss International Air Lines, which is being taken over by Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa, are threatening to strike over plans to cut jobs at its regional business.

The union is demanding a guarantee that more pilots will remain at the carrier than Swiss planned under a cost reduction programme and that those made redundant receive better financial packages.

"Ninety-three percent of our pilots voted in favour and gave us a mandate for strike action," Christoph Frick, president of the Swiss pilots' union, said on Friday. "We now have a free rein, but there is still no concrete decision to strike."

The union is hoping to reach a compromise with Swiss management in the coming weeks. Swiss was created in 2002 by combining the remnants of collapsed Swissair with regional carrier Crossair. The company wants to cut a further 800 to 1,000 jobs to lower annual costs by about 300 million Swiss francs ($248.1 million) annually by 2007.

Frick said the number of Crossair pilots had dropped from more than 1,000 to about 450 since the new carrier was born. Swiss wants to cut this by half again and improve productivity by 40 percent, he said.

Following the announcement last month that Lufthansa will buy Swiss at a cost of up to about 310 million euros ($397.4 million), executives at both companies pledged to continue lowering costs at Swiss, which has burned through billions of francs in its first three years without ever making an annual profit.
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Old May 5th, 2005, 01:42 AM   #28
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Lufthansa makes offer of 8.96 Swiss francs for remaining shares of Swiss
04 May 2005

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - Lufthansa on Wednesday offered 8.96 Swiss francs (�5.80; US$7.46) a share for Swiss International Airlines Ltd.'s remaining stock, part of the German airline's takeover plan.

Lufthansa said its offer will run through June 2, adding the price was based on the average opening price of Swiss stock from March 23, the day Lufthansa said it would acquire the airline.

Swiss' board has already recommended that its shareholders take the offer, and Deutsche Lufthansa AG has commitments from Swiss International's major shareholders, representing around 85 percent of total shares.

Lufthansa said its overall cost for the takeover would likely be as much as �310 million (US$398.54 million), with �45 million (US$57.8 million) going to minority shareholders.
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Old May 6th, 2005, 03:31 PM   #29
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Swiss Intl Air CEO Franz Waives Advance Share Payment
6 May 2005
Edited Press Release

ZURICH (Dow Jones)--Swiss International Air Lines Ltd. (SWIN.EB), in the process of being taken over by Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA.XE), said late Thursday its chief executive is giving up his right to an advance payment in shares of the Swiss carrier.

The offer prospectus for the purchase offer currently being made to Swiss International Air minority shareholders includes the information that President and Chief Executive Officer Christoph Franz would be immediately entitled to 100,000 shares in the event of a change of control at Swiss International Air, a development which is now expected to occur in 2006.

This is a customary provision of results-based compensation models. The share options concerned, which could otherwise be exercised in 2008, are part of the compensation package agreed between Christoph Franz and the Board of Directors when he joined the company, and were publicly communicated Apr. 2004.

To avoid unnecessary public debate, however, and to eliminate any impression of deriving special benefit from the planned change of control, Christoph Franz has asked the Board of Directors to postpone any issue of the shares until 2008.
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Old May 11th, 2005, 08:19 AM   #30
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Swiss Air April load factor rises to 79.4 percent

ZURICH, May 10 (Reuters) - The seat load factor at Swiss International Air Lines rose to 79.4 percent in April, up 2.2 percentage points from a year ago, the flag carrier said on Tuesday.

The seat load factor, a measure of the number of seats sold as a percentage of capacity, gives no indication as to the profitability of the routes.

Swiss, which is being taken over by Germany's Lufthansa , carried 842,805 passengers in April.

Lufthansa said on Monday it had 5 percent more traffic in April than in the same month a year earlier, boosted by demand on Asia-Pacific routes. It had a passenger load factor of 73.7 percent in April.

Rival British Airways had a load factor of 74.7 percent, while Air France KLM's factor stood at 79.2 percent last month.

In March, Lufthansa agreed to take over Swiss, ending three years of independence for the loss-making carrier, which was created from the ashes of grounded predecessor Swissair and regional carrier Crossair.
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Old May 15th, 2005, 06:55 PM   #31
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'Swiss' may lose independent status if still unprofitable by 2007 - report
15 May 2005

ZURICH (AFX) - Swiss International Air Lines AG may lose its status as an independent entity under the roof of Deutsche Lufthansa AG should the Swiss airline fail to turn profitable by 2007, SonntagsZeitung reported, citing CEO Christoph Franz.

Time is running out for Swiss to implement its promised restructuring, which is meeting stiff resistance from trade unions, SonntagsZeitung said. Otherwise, 'Swiss' will be reduced to a 'feeder airline' for Lufthansa, the newspaper cited the airline's CEO as saying privately.

At the airline's general meeting next Thursday, Franz is likely to concede another quarterly loss.

Moreover, a positive operating result for 2005 looks more and more unlikely given increased fuel prices and difficulties with Swiss' planned reduction of its regional fleet by 13 aircraft.
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Old May 27th, 2005, 01:22 AM   #32
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Lufthansa notifies acquisition of Swiss International Air Lines to EU
26 May 2005

BRUSSELS (AFX) - The European Commission said Deutsche Lufthansa AG has notified its planned acquisition of Swiss International Air Lines AG and that it will rule on its initial investigation on June 24.

The commission, which polices competition in the 25 EU member states, will now start an initial investigation lasting one month, after which it may decide to clear the deal, attach conditions or open an in-depth probe.

In all likelihood, the deal will be cleared with conditions, as was the case in the merger of Air France and KLM. EU competition director-general Philip Lowe has previously said the commission will look at routes and networking effects.
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Old June 3rd, 2005, 12:44 AM   #33
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'Swiss' to join Star Alliance
2 June 2005

ZURICH (AFX) - Swiss International Air Lines AG, which is currently being acquired by Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa, said it will join the Star Alliance in the coming year after the alliance's board accepted the Swiss airline's application at a meeting in Japan.

Upon the integration of 'Swiss' and South African Airways, another new applicant, the Star Alliance network will consist of 18 airlines.

The other members are Lufthansa, Air Canada, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, bmi, LOT Polish Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Spanair, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways International, United, US Airways and VARIG Brazilian Airlines.
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Old June 4th, 2005, 01:43 AM   #34
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Lufthansa Now Holds 96% Of SWISS Shares
03 June 2005

FRANKFURT (Dow Jones)--German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA.XE) Friday said it holds 96% of Swiss International Air Lines Ltd. (SWIN.EB) following Thursday's offer deadline.

The shares are held for Lufthansa in the custody of Swiss company AirTrust AG. For 84.6% of the shares, Lufthansa has written guarantees from Swiss's large shareholders. The other 11.4% were secured for Lufthansa via an offer made to minority shareholders by AirTrust. [ 03-06-05 0553GMT ]

Lufthansa offered CHF8.96 a share to Swiss's minority shareholders. For those who haven't yet accepted, there will be a further acceptance period of 10 trading days from June 9 to June 22.

The 96% holding exceeds the level required for the major shareholder to conduct a squeeze-out of remaining, minority shareholders. Once cartel approval for Lufthansa's takeover of Swiss is officially granted, AirTrust might pursue the squeeze-out.
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Old June 8th, 2005, 03:47 PM   #35
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Lufthansa sees Swiss flying back into profit in 2007

FRANKFURT, June 8 (AFP) - German flag carrier Lufthansa expects its newly acquired Swiss unit to fly back into profit by 2007, the German airline's chairman Wolfgang Mayrhuber said in a newspaper interview Wednesday.

"We're pencilling in a positive contribution to earnings from Swiss in 2007," Mayrhuber told the daily Die Welt.

Swiss, which Lufthansa acquired in March, was already cutting costs, the chairman said.

"In 2006, it will be decisive what comes out of the wage negotiations with the unions for the pilots and cabin staff," and what can be gained from Swiss' technical, airport, air traffic control and catering activities, Mayrhuber said.
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Old June 14th, 2005, 07:22 PM   #36
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Lufthansa's China revenue seen growing -exec

SHANGHAI, June 14 (Reuters) - China is expected to contribute a fifth of German airline Lufthansa's revenue in Asia Pacific within five years, up from around a sixth now, a senior executive said on Tuesday, as more affluent Chinese take to the skies.

Lufthansa AG booked 2.1 billion euros ($2.54 billion) in passenger revenue in Asia Pacific last year, a rise of 18 percent year-on-year, according to its annual report, accounting for about 20 percent of the global total.

"It's a market with great potential, as less than one percent of Chinese travel by air," Thierry Antinori, Lufthansa's executive vice president for marketing and sales, told Reuters. "We look at China with optimism."

The German airline operates 41 weekly flights from China, connecting four cities -- Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong -- with Frankfurt and Munich.

Lufthansa, which competes with British Airways Plc , Air France-KLM , Air China and others on the China-Europe route, began scheduled services to mainland China in 1980.

Passenger numbers on China routes rose 26 percent in the first five months from a year earlier and Antinori said he expected continued double-digit growth in the years to come.

But he declined to comment on what other Chinese cities Lufthansa may consider flying to, other than that the airline was evaluating new destinations.

Star Alliance member Lufthansa, Europe's second most valuable airline, also has code share flights with two Chinese partners -- Air China and regional player Shanghai Airlines Co. Ltd. . ($1=.8255 Euro)
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Old June 26th, 2005, 08:32 AM   #37
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Lufthansa's AirTrust holds 98.7 pct of 'Swiss' share capital, plans squeeze-out
23 June 2005
AFX International Focus

FRANKFURT (AFX) - Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Lufthansa's Almea Foundation hold a total of 98.7 pct of Swiss International Air Lines AG ('Swiss') share capital via Almea's AirTrust AG, according to a joint statement issued by Lufthansa and 'Swiss'.

AirTrust is now planning to squeeze out remaining minority shareholders of 'Swiss', they said.
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Old June 30th, 2005, 04:30 PM   #38
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'Swiss' raises fuel charges on long-haul, domestic flights effective July 1
28 June 2005

ZURICH (AFX) - Swiss International Airlines ('Swiss') said it raising its fuel surcharge on all of its flight starting July 1 in response to a sharp rise in crude oil and aviation fuel prices in recent weeks.

The air carrier said it is raising its fuel surcharge to 53 sfr per leg (from 48 sfr) for long-haul flights and to 20 sfr per leg (from 18 sfr) for European flights.
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Old July 4th, 2005, 09:12 PM   #39
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Lufthansa gets US approval for takeover of Swiss International
4 July 2005

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - German airline Lufthansa AG said Monday it received unconditional approval from U.S. regulators for its planned €310 million (US$374.7 million) takeover of Swiss International.

The Cologne-based airline still needs European regulatory approval before the deal -- announced in March -- can go through.

U.S. antitrust authorities gave their approval for Lufthansa to acquire Swiss International Airlines Ltd. over the weekend. European Union regulators are expected to make their decision next week.

Swiss has suffered massive financial problems since it was created out of Swissair in 2002, racking up losses of 2 billion francs (US$1.64 billion; €1.3 billion) so far.

Lufthansa has pledged to maintain the Swiss brand and run it as a separate Swiss-based airline operating from its hub in Zurich.

Lufthansa is Europe's third-largest passenger airline, behind British Airways and Air France-KLM, and flies to more than 330 destinations in 90 countries.
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Old July 7th, 2005, 07:20 AM   #40
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Lufthansa Takeover of Swiss Int'l Gets OK
5 July 2005

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Lufthansa AG won clearance from the European Union on Tuesday to proceed with its $374.7 million takeover of Swiss International Air Lines provided the carriers surrender slots at several airports including hubs in Zurich and Frankfurt.

Company officials said the decision means they could complete the deal by 2006 at the earliest.

EU approval came after U.S. antitrust regulators gave their clearance to the deal over the weekend.

The slots that would be given up would amount to "a total of up to 41 roundtrips per day," a news release said.

Under the terms of the EU approval, both airlines may also have to give up slots at Munich, Duesseldorf, Berlin; Vienna, Austria; Stockholm, Sweden; and Copenhagen, Denmark, said Lufthansa spokeswoman Christine Ritz.

"At the moment, we don't have to give up the slots," she said. "It's only if there's a new entrant or if there are no slots available. Right now, we're still flying on all these destinations."

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said the takeover of Swiss, which has suffered massive financial problems since it was created out of Swissair in 2002, "should not lead to higher prices or reduced choice of carrier."

The EU head office said its investigation into the deal found that competition was reduced the most on the Zurich-Frankfurt and Zurich-Munich routes and also said that competition on long-haul routes to the United States, South Africa, Thailand and Egypt would be affected.

The EU also got assurances from the Swiss civil aviation authority that it would give traffic rights to other carriers wanting to stop over in Zurich on flights to the U.S. "or other non-EU destinations."

Lufthansa has pledged to maintain the Swiss brand and run it as a separate Swiss-based airline operating from its hub in Zurich.

"The green light from Brussels and Washington gives us the opportunity to ensure the long-term future of the air transport connections that are so crucial to Switzerland and its economy," Swiss President and Chief Executive Christoph Franz said.

Lufthansa, Europe's third-largest passenger airline behind British Airways and Air France-KLM, decided in May to buy troubled Swiss, which was racking up losses of 2 billion francs ($1.64 billion) since its creation three years ago.

Ritz said Lufthansa will increase its stake in AirTrust -- the vehicle by which Lufthansa is buying Swiss shares from its minority shareholders -- from 11 percent to 49 percent.

"Once the current negotiations to secure Swiss' traffic rights have been successfully concluded and corresponding agreements have been obtained, Lufthansa will raise its holding in Swiss to 100 percent," she said, adding that could happen by 2006.

Shares of Lufthansa rose 0.2 percent to 10.26 euros ($12.20) in morning Frankfurt trading.
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