Lufthansa braces for more challenges against rivals

Michelle Martin, Ilona Wissenbach –

German airline Lufthansa said it was braced for very tough price competition with Ryanair and easyJet for at least the rest of this year as it reported a plunge in second-quarter earnings on Tuesday.
Lufthansa, which had issued a profit warning last month, blamed price competition on short-haul routes and rising fuel and maintenance costs as it said second-quarter adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) fell by 25 per cent on the year to 754 million euros ($839.73 million).
Net profit for the quarter plummeted 70 per cent to 226 million euros, partly due to an almost 200 million euro tax provision.
The results put further pressure on Lufthansa’s share price, which skidded 5.5 per cent by 0850 GMT, after falling by around a third in the past year.
“Our earnings are feeling the effects of tough competition in Europe and sizeable overcapacities, especially on our short-haul routes out of Germany and Austria,” Chief Financial Officer Ulrik Svensson said.
Lufthansa was reacting by cutting costs further and boosting flexibility and hoped a turnaround plan announced for Eurowings in June would make its low-cost carrier profitable on a sustainable basis.
Referring to budget carriers Ryanair and Easyjet, Svensson said: “We are expecting that we will indeed have a very tough price competitive situation with these carriers for the rest of the year and maybe also into 2020.” Eurowings’ short-haul business was likely to face further challenges in the second half of the year but a pick-up in the long-haul business should offset some of that, Lufthansa said. It said Eurowings would likely report an adjusted EBIT margin of -4 to -6 per cent for the year as a whole.
In June Lufthansa said that Eurowings would aim to slash costs by 15 per cent over the next three years and focus on short-haul flights as part of a plan to return to profit by 2021. Lufthansa cited falling revenues at Eurowings as a major reason behind last month’s profit warning.
On Tuesday, the airline forecast that the Network Airlines unit — its core brand, Swiss and Austrian Airlines — would see long-haul business develop at an above-average rate in the second half of the year but warned the more downbeat economic outlook increased the likelihood of weaker trends than in the first half.
Eurowings — which is facing particularly tough price competition from Ryanair and Wizz Air — reported an adjusted loss of 273 million euros in the first half of 2019 compared with a loss of 220 million euros a year earlier.
Ryanair on Monday reported a 21 per cent drop in quarterly profit as price wars in some European markets drove ticket prices lower. But Wizz Air last week raised its full-year capacity growth outlook after a strong start to its financial year. — Reuters