Germany to own 20 percent of Lufthansa as part of $9.8bn rescue

Lufthansa has been in talks with Berlin for weeks over aid to help it to survive the coronavirus-induced travel slump.

    Conditions of the deal include the waiver of future dividend payments and limits on management pay, Lufthansa said on Monday, adding that Berlin will also fill two seats on its supervisory board, with one becoming a member of the audit committee [File: Bloomberg]
    Conditions of the deal include the waiver of future dividend payments and limits on management pay, Lufthansa said on Monday, adding that Berlin will also fill two seats on its supervisory board, with one becoming a member of the audit committee [File: Bloomberg]

    Germany threw Lufthansa a nine billion euro ($9.8bn) lifeline on Monday, agreeing to bail out the company which gives Berlin a veto power in the event of a hostile bid for the airline.

    As part of the largest German corporate rescue since the coronavirus crisis struck, the government will take a 20 percent stake, which could rise to 25 percent plus one share in the event of a takeover attempt, as it seeks to protect thousands of jobs.

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    Lufthansa has been locked in talks with Berlin for weeks over aid it needs to survive an expected protracted travel slump, with the airline wrangling over how much control to yield in return for the financial support.

    Germany's central government has spent decades offloading stakes in companies, but remains a large shareholder in former state monopolies such as Deutsche Post and Deutsche Telekom. Berlin also still has a 15 percent holding in Commerzbank, which it took on during the global financial crisis.

    Other airlines, including Franco-Dutch Air France-KLM and United States carriers American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have also sought state aid after the coronavirus hit global travel.

    Germany's Finance Ministry and Economic Affairs Ministry said on Monday that Lufthansa, whose shares closed up 7.5 percent at 8.64 euros ($9.42), had been operationally healthy and profitable with good prospects, but had run into trouble because of the pandemic.

    "The support that we're preparing here is for a limited period," Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said of the deal, under which Germany is buying new shares at the nominal value of 2.56 euros ($2.79) apiece for a total of about 300 million euros ($327m).

    Berlin, which has set up a 100 billion euro ($109bn) fund to take stakes in companies struck by the coronavirus crisis, said it plans to sell the Lufthansa stake by the end of 2023.

    Lufthansa

    "When the company is fit again, the state will sell its stake and hopefully ... with a small profit that puts us into a position to finance the many, many requirements which we have to meet now, not only at this company," Scholz added.

    Conditions of the deal include the waiver of future dividend payments and limits on management pay, Lufthansa said, adding that the government will also fill two seats on its supervisory board, with one becoming a member of the audit committee.

    Silent participation

    Under the bailout package, details of which were earlier reported by Reuters news agency, the government will also inject 5.7 billion euros ($6.2bn) in non-voting capital, known as a silent participation.

    Part of this could be converted into an additional 5 percent equity stake, either to protect Lufthansa against a hostile takeover or in case coupon payments of 4 percent in 2020 and 2021, increasing to 9.5 percent by 2027, are missed by the airline.

    "[The bailout deal] will prevent Lufthansa from being sold out," Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said, adding that it would help save thousands of jobs but did not include any extra environmental conditions on top of planned measures.

    Lufthansa will separately receive a 3 billion euro three-year loan from state-backed KfW and private banks.

    The state's WSF rescue fund plans to refrain from exercising voting rights at regular shareholder meetings under the bailout deal, which still requires approval by shareholders as well as the European Commission, Lufthansa said.

    It is still discussing with Europe's competition watchdog which airport slots it will have to give to ensure the bailout does not hamper competition, a person close to the matter said.

    "Scrutiny is extremely thorough as it is the first large equity-based bailout in the pandemic," the source said.

    German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel had said Berlin would fight to ensure that remedies were not too stringent.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency