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Tue 15 May 2012 09:05 AM

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Abu Dhabi-backed Air Berlin narrows Q1 loss

German airline, 29 percent owned by Etihad, posted a loss of US$192m

Abu Dhabi-backed Air Berlin narrows Q1 loss
Generic airplane, airport

Air Berlin, Europe’s third-biggest discount carrier, said its first-quarter loss narrowed as a savings program took effect.

The German airline, 29 percent owned by Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi, had an operating loss of
€149.3m (US$192m), versus
€188m a year earlier, it said today.

Analysts had predicted a loss of
€160m, based on four estimates. Revenue rose 4 percent to
€813m.

Operating expenses increased only 1.5 percent “due to the successful implementation of the ‘Shape & Size’ efficiency program,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Air Berlin is seeking to implement
€200m of savings this year, though planning for the second half, in which it had aimed to secure 65 percent of that total, has been thrown into disarray after future hub Berlin Brandenburg airport said last week that a June 3 opening date would be missed.

Shares of the German carrier have declined 21 percent this year, threatening to extend five straight annual declines and valuing the company at
€230m.

Air Berlin’s net loss narrowed to
€102.9m from
€121m, buoyed by a
€50m tax credit.

The company said in March it aimed to boost margins this year while increasing revenue and lifting the per-passenger yield, a measure of air fares, at least 5 percent. It did not say today what impact the airport delay will have on those targets and plans to release further information tomorrow.

The carrier has cut routes and frequencies as a slowdown in European economies hurts demand, reducing capacity by more than 1m seats to save
€250m and pare debt by
€50m. It has also put on hold 19 jets due for delivery this year and in 2013, and is closing bases in Erfurt and Dortmund, shaving a further US$508m from spending.

Etihad agreed to a US$350m package of financing and funds for planes with Air Berlin in December. The Gulf carrier reckons a
€105m equity investment will be recouped in extra revenue in two years, making it a better bet for cracking the tightly regulated German market than adding new airliners.

Deutsche Lufthansa, Europe’s second-biggest airline after Air France-KLM Group, suffered a
€381m operating loss in the first quarter, it said May 2, bigger than the
€297m deficit anticipated by analysts.

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