Lufthansa shares tumble 11% after profit warning

Rival airlines dragged down as German carrier cites competition on European routes

 Lufthansa  cited falling revenue from its Eurowings budget business as a key reason for the profit warning.  Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach

Lufthansa cited falling revenue from its Eurowings budget business as a key reason for the profit warning. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach

 

A profit warning from Lufthansa sent the German airline’s shares plunging by 11 per cent and dragged down rivals across the sector as they battle for business in a highly competitive European market.

In a statement late on Sunday, Lufthansa forecast earnings before interest and tax (Ebit) of between €2 billion and €2.4 billion, compared with the previously targeted €2.4 billion to €3 billion.

“Yields in the European short-haul market, in particular in the group’s home markets Germany and Austria, are affected by sustained overcapacities caused by carriers willing to accept significant losses to expand their market share,” it said.

Lufthansa cited falling revenue from its Eurowings budget business as a key reason for the profit warning. Revenue here was forecast to decline significantly in the second quarter.

It also cited high jet fuel costs, which it said could exceed last year’s figure by €550 million despite a recent fall in crude oil prices.

Shares in rivals were hit by the profit warning. Ryanair was down 3.7 per cent, while those in British Airways and Aer Lingus owner IAG , Wizz Air and Easyjet fell between 1.9 and 2.7 per cent.

“The group expects the European market to remain challenging at least for the remainder of 2019,” said Lufthansa.

Ryanair last month reported its weakest annual profit in four years, and said earnings could fall further as European airlines wage what chief executive Michael O’Leary described as “attritional fare wars”.

Asian routes

Lufthansa’s outlook is more positive for its long-haul business, especially on transatlantic and Asian routes, it said.

Lufthansa’s adjusted margin for earnings before interest and tax (Ebit) was forecast between 5.5 per cent and 6.5 per cent, down from 6.5 per cent to 8 per cent previously, it said in a statement.

Lufthansa said it would make a €340 million provision in its first-half accounts relating to a tax matter in Germany originating in the years between 2001 and 2005.

The Network airlines unit – its core brand Swiss and Austrian Airlines – is expected to reach an adjusted Ebit margin of between 7 per cent and 9 per cent, down from 7.5 per cent to 9.5 per cent.

For its Eurowings business, the forecast was for between minus 4 per cent and minus 6 per cent, against about flat previously.

Eurowings management is due to implement turnaround measures to be presented shortly, Lufthansa said, adding that it would defend its market position on short-haul routes.

A research note from Berenberg bank said that it interpreted this statement as a signal that the group is unlikely to reduce capacity there, adding that it was encouraged by Lufthansa noting that it would expand long-haul capacity only marginally in the coming winter.

Lufthansa will hold an investor day in Frankfurt on June 24th. – Reuters