Lufthansa secured shareholders’ agreement to a €9 billion German state-aid package at an extraordinary general meeting today after a leading stakeholder dropped opposition to the deal.
Europe’s biggest airline group, Lufthansa had warned the bailout was in jeopardy last week after billionaire stakeholder Heinz-Hermann Thiele opposed the German government taking a 20% stake in the airline.
Lufthansa said it would be forced into insolvency if the deal was not approved.
The €9 billion in aid was agreed with Germany’s Economic Stabilisation Fund on May 25 and the Lufthansa board agreed to EC conditions on the deal, to surrender slots at Frankfurt and Munich airports, on May 30.
The deal will see the German state take a 20% stake in the carrier and two seats on the supervisory board, diluting the holdings of existing shareholders.
This stake will rise to 25% in the event of a takeover of Lufthansa or if the airline fails to repay the money on time.
In advance of today’s meeting, Lufthansa brought forward payment of staff salaries to “guarantee payment” amid the uncertainty around the bailout and made “extensive preparations” to secure its aircraft before filing for insolvency.
However, Thiele revealed on the eve of the vote that he would back the rescue. His 15.5% holding was decisive as holders of only just over 39% Lufthansa shares registered to vote at the meeting.
Earlier this week, German finance minister Olaf Scholz defended the rescue after a meeting with Thiele, calling it a “carefully considered proposal”.
Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr told the extraordinary general meeting: “We need state aid. The capital market is unable to help us. We do not have the option of accepting foreign [non-EU] capital.
“This safeguards our solvency and our structure. The government will sell its ownership stake as soon as we have repaid the money, including interest.”
Karl-Ludwig Kley, chair of the Lufthansa supervisory board, sold shareholders: “If you approve the economic stabilisation package, there will be no insolvency.”
He said the supervisory board had agreed the package “despite many misgivings”.
Thiele has built his stake in Lufthansa through the period of Covid-19 lockdown after holding only a 5% stake in March.
There is speculation he intends to increase his stake after announcing plans to raise €750 million last week.
Lufthansa is in consultation on 22,000 redundancies, about 16% of the airline’s workforce.
Spohr announced an agreement with cabin crew on a 17% reduction in wage costs and said a similar deal with pilots is on course.
Restructuring is also under way at group carriers Brussels Airlines, which will cut 25% of its workforce, and Austrian Airlines, which will cut wage costs by 20%.
The group has forecast air passenger demand will return so slowly that 300 of the group’s aircraft will remain parked in 2021 and 200 in 2022.
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