Lufthansa Wins Investor Approval for $6.6 Billion Capital RaiseBy
Company says move necessary to strengthen balance sheet
Lufthansa pledges not to use full amount; time to be decided
Deutsche Lufthansa AG shareholders approved a potential capital raise of 5.5 billion euros ($6.6 billion), a move management said is needed to repair the stricken carrier’s balance sheet.
At the German airline’s annual meeting on Tuesday, a majority of investors gave permission for the issuance of 2.15 billion new shares at a time of the carrier’s choosing. The nominal price of the stock would be 2.56 euros each, about one-fourth Lufthansa’s current share price, though the airline is likely to issue them at a higher amount.
The company said last week it wouldn’t use the full amount available, and instead aim for the “smallest possible” raise.
“The resolution is intended to enable us to increase our capital flexibly so that we can strengthen our balance sheet ratios again and return to our former financial stability,” Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr said in a speech to shareholders, urging them to back the proposal.
The move would give Europe’s largest airline enough cash to replace Germany’s so-called silent participation, a major part of Lufthansa’s 9 billion-euro government bailout. The interest rates on the instrument -- a debt-equity hybrid that doesn’t dilute shareholder voting rights -- are set to rise over coming years.
A simple majority was required for the motion to pass. The airline said it hasn’t decided when to undertake the capital raise, but could do so this year if market conditions allow.
Last week, Lufthansa became the latest carrier to lower its expectations for summer travel, saying a significant market recovery won’t come until the second half as inoculation programs progress. It estimates full-year capacity at around 40% of pre-crisis levels.
Responding to investor questions, Spohr said the airline would wait for the global aviation market to recover before selling non-core operations such as its Airplus credit-card service and the remainder of its LSG catering arm.
The shares pared earlier gains to trade 0.3% higher at 11.05 euros as of 4:10 p.m. in Frankfurt.
The fund-raising proposal is expected to pass with support from the German government, Lufthansa’s largest shareholder. Advisory firms have also urged shareholders to vote in favor.
Paying back the 5.5 billion-euro silent participation would leave Lufthansa owing a total of 2 billion euros to the governments of Switzerland, Belgium and Austria, where it also operates flag-carrier airlines. The company has already repaid 1 billion euros of the amount loaned by Germany’s state development bank, KfW.