Etihad Airways backs Air Berlin “for the long term”

Abu Dhabi-based carrier says to subscribe to bond to support restructuring at German partner airline

Etihad Airways boss James Hogan has offered his “full support” to Air Berlin, after the German carrier in which Etihad has a near 30 percent stake announced the start of a restructuring process

Air Berlin is to undergo a strategic review of its business, and will appoint a new chief restructuring officer. The airline reported a full year loss of €231.9m ($320m) for 2013 following a slow outbound season due to unusually hot weather, compounded by weak  European economies and increased competition.

Hogan said: “The airline is clearly in a very challenging position. However, we are confident the business is moving in the right direction, and can be turned around but it needs an accelerated and fundamental restructuring. Air Berlin has our full support in this process.”

He added: “We’re here for the long term - for the airline, the travelling public and the community. With the right strategic vision, and the right implementation, Etihad Airways believes Air Berlin can become a sustainably profitable business, securing the jobs of its 8,900 employees and the many thousands more workers it indirectly supports.”

In support of this restructuring, Etihad Airways will subscribe to a €300m eight percent perpetual subordinated cumulative convertible guaranteed bond. This will form part of a recapitalisation which is intended to strengthen and assist in the reorganisation of Air Berlin’s capital structure and secure the improved long-term prospects for the business and its stakeholders.

Etihad Airways’ stake in Air Berlin will remain unchanged at 29.21 percent. Air Berlin will raise a further €150m through a bond issue.

Despite the German carrier’s losses, the Etihad investment has so far proved hugely fruitful for the UAE’s national carrier.  Previously it operated just 25 flights per week to three destinations.

It has since gained access to more than 30 million passengers and a combined European network of 228 destinations across 84 countries.

Hogan said: “Today the picture is very different and Germany is at the centre of our European network. Just two years on, together the two airlines operate 56 weekly flights and, in 2013, delivered more than 560,000 passengers onto each other’s networks. This is an increase of 75.3 percent on 2012, generating more than €200m in new revenues.

“The cumulative total of codeshare passengers since our partnership with Air Berlin began is now approaching one million, and Germany has overtaken the United Kingdom as Etihad Airways’ largest outbound European market. Air Berlin is the biggest contributor of passengers to Etihad Airways’ global network.”

The German carrier was  also successful in reaching its €200m cost reduction and revenue contribution target for the year, achieving key elements of its ‘Turbine’ turnaround program and reducing available seat kilometres, a key measure of capacity, by 5.1 percent.

Both airlines also experienced a number of cost synergies, through joint procurement initiatives in aircraft, engines, maintenance, catering and technology.

Etihad Airways saw its Q1 revenues rise 27 percent to $1.4bn in Q1 this year. Etihad said its codeshare and equity partnerships delivered 678,000 passengers onto Etihad Airways flights in Q1 - 25 percent higher than the same period last year.

Revenue from codeshare and equity partners increased by 23 percent to $223m, representing 22 percent of total revenue for the quarter.

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