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Lufthansa looking for deals amid the crisis

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18:09 CEST+02:00
Lufthansa boss Wolfgang Mayrhuber suggested Friday his airline should use the global economic crisis as an opportunity to reinforce its position in Europe.

The leading German carrier expected nonetheless to cut capacity further this year to adjust to weaker demand amid the global recession, Mayrhuber told shareholders in the western city of Cologne.

Lufthansa should favour purchases and partnerships that "make sense economically, which are solid in the long term," the airline boss said.

"We want to follow the example of Swiss," a carrier Lufthansa successfully integrated into its group in 2007, he added.

Without Swiss, Lufthansa would have posted a four-percent drop in passenger numbers last year, instead it recorded a gain of 14 percent.

Swiss boss Christoph Franz is to become vice president of Lufthansa on June 1, which German media say makes him a potential candidate to succeed Mayrhuber in 2010.

Lufthansa pursued its expansionist policy last year despite a deteriorating sector outlook.

The German carrier awaits a green light from the European Commission for its purchases of stakes in Brussels Airlines, and in Austrian Airlines which will provide access to a strong network of eastern European routes.

Lufthansa is also expected to raise its holding in British carrier BMI to 80 percent this year, and to launch Lufthansa Italia from Milan.

That will put it in competition with Italian carrier Alitalia for the third biggest European air transport market.

For 2009, Mayrhuber said he expected demand to remain weak, but added that Lufthansa should post a "distinctively positive" operating profit.

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