Airberlin calls for an “accelerated and fundamental restructuring” after losing $321.5 million in 2013 and Etihad Airways pumps in more capital in loans

Airberlin (Berlin) today called for an “accelerated and fundamental restructuring”  of the loss-making carrier.

Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi) secured a 29.21 percent stake in Airberlin in 2011 and the ownership will remain at this percentage as it pumps in more capital to keep Airberlin in operation. Etihad Airways has subscribed to a convertible bond in the amount of 300 million euros.

The European Union is currently looking into whether Etihad Airways has more control than what is allowed under the European Union’s rules.

Airberlin today issued this statement on its financial health, restructuring and its financial losses in 2013:

Airberlin has set necessary preconditions to accelerate and deepen the turnaround leading to sustainable profitability. By means of a substantial recapitalization, the company will receive a cash inflow of 450 million euros before the end of 2014, equipping Airberlin with an improved financial structure for a deeper and comprehensive restructuring.

This recapitalization is based on two pillars: first, Etihad Airways has subscribed to a convertible bond in the amount of 300 million euros. As this is a perpetual subordinated bond, it will be posted as equity under IFRS accounting principles.

Second, in order to further strengthen the financial structure, Airberlin will issue a bond in the amount of a minimum of 150 million euros. This bond is arranged by Anoa Capital. The proceeds will be used for general corporate financing purposes. Further the holders of the 2014 and 2015 bonds will be offered to exchange their existing bonds at preferential terms as set out in the exchange offer into the new bonds with a maturity in 2019. In addition, Airberlin has a partially undrawn credit facility from its largest shareholder, the maturity of which has been extended from 2016 to 2021. After the recapitaliZation the current ownership structure of Air Berlin PLC will remain unchanged.

To strengthen management capacity for the turnaround-process, the Management Board of Airberlin will be expanded to include the function of a Chief Restructuring Officer (CRO). Effective May, Marco Ciomperlik will take up responsibility to coordinate and drive the restructuring and turnaround process in his role as CRO.

In previous years, Marco Ciomperlik has worked in a leading role in consultancy companies and the last five years in the role of Chief Maintenance Officer at Airberlin where he successfully implemented restructuring projects in his area of responsibility. As already announced Götz Ahmelmann will assume responsibility as Chief Commercial Officer as of 1 July 2014. Götz Ahmelmann has extensive experience in all commercial areas of aviation, most recently as of Head of European Sales at airberlin’s main competitor.

“On the basis of an improved financial structure, with a strengthened management capacity, we are able to intensify and accelerate the fundamental restructuring of the business,” said Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, CEO Airberlin. “Even though the Turbine efficiency program has delivered according to plan and will take full effect in 2014, we have to increase the pressure during implementation, drive further measures as well as thoroughly evaluate our possible courses of action including airberlin´s long-term business model. This restructuring will focus on efficiency, while our core proposition to offer best service to our guests and partners remains unchanged. We value the confidence our shareholders and the capital market have placed in us to enable a more fundamental restructuring.”

Wolfgang Prock-Schauer also called upon Germany’s authorities to put more emphasis on creating a positive business environment for the aviation industry including the abolishment of the aviation tax. For Airberlin, last year’s tax payment amounted to 142.9 million euros.

“With our successful and comprehensive recapitalization we have the necessary financial breathing space to deeply restructure the airline and bring it back to operative profitability. We are putting out an attractive offer to exchange the 2014 and 2015 bonds with the aim to further ease and streamline the maturity profile going forward in order to support the focus on operational restructuring”, said Ulf Hüttmeyer, Chief Financial Officer of airberlin

In 2014 already scheduled further Turbine measures will be implemented with the introduction of a new Revenue Management System, the further optimisation of the airline´s network and fleet structure and improvement of staff productivity. Furthermore, the synergies with partners Etihad Airways on the one hand and oneworld® carriers on the other hand will show continuous improvements. To evaluate the efforts and support the top management in the implementation of a deeper and more radical restructuring airberlin will commission a management consultancy.

These intensified efforts have to be seen in the context of a challenging environment. Airberlin closed the 2013 financial year with an operating loss (EBIT) of 231.9 million euros ($321.5 million). The Turbine efficiency program achieved the desired contribution of 200 million euros to the cost and turnover side and a number of performance indicators delivered positive results. However, the company was faced with an unexpectedly sluggish summer season due to high temperatures in Central Europe, followed by the traditionally difficult winter period.

Airberlin carried 31.5 million guests last year, the fourth year in succession in which the company exceeded the 30-million mark. By focussing on core routes Airberlin managed to achieve a better market position and to increase capacity utilisation by five percentage points to 84.8%. Optimized flight schedules enabled the company to reduce the fleet by 15 aircraft to 140 and to increase its leading market position in its two most important hubs Berlin and Dusseldorf.

With a reduced capacity offer of 5.1%, group revenues fell by 4% to 4.147 billion euros. The yield (revenue per passenger) increased by 0.8% to 121.0 euros (previous year: 120.1 euros). Revenue per available seat kilometre (RASK) increased in 2013 by 1.3% to 7.24 euro cents (previous year: 7.15 euro cents) while the costs per available seat kilometre (CASK) rose by 3.5% including fuel and restructuring charges.

Collaboration with Etihad Airways and other partners was further expanded last year. The partnership with Etihad Airways led to a significantly higher shared turnover of 200 million euros on joint codeshare routes. More than 560,000 joint codeshare passengers flew in the network – an increase of 75.3% compared to the previous year.

The number of flight guests on joint codeshare routes with oneworld partners also increased significantly in 2013 to over one million, and more than doubled compared to the previous year.

As of December 31, 2013 and therefore before the recapitalization, Airberlin had equity capital of minus 186.1 million euros, liquid assets of 223 million euros and a partially undrawn credit facility of $120 million (US).

Meanwhile Etihad Airways today issued this statement about Airberlin:

Etihad Airways today welcomed Airberlin’s decision to accelerate structural change within the airline to target sustainable profitability.

Airberlin announced a strategic review of its long-term business model as it reported its 2013 annual financial results. The predominant objective will be to restructure the airline and shape a robust business model that is fit for purpose in today’s competitive market conditions. For this purpose Airberlin will strengthen its management board with the appointment of a Chief Restructuring Officer.

In support of this restructuring, Etihad Airways will subscribe to a €300 million eight percent perpetual subordinated cumulative convertible guaranteed bond. This will form part of a recapitalization which is intended to strengthen and assist in the reorganization of Airberlin’s capital structure and secure the improved long-term prospects for the business and its stakeholders. Etihad Airways’ stake in Airberlin will remain unchanged at 29.21 per cent. Airberlin will issue a further bond of a minimum of €150 million for general corporate financing purposes.

James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, reaffirmed that Etihad Airways was a strategic minority investor in Airberlin, and remained confident and committed for the long term.

He 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. airberlin has our full support in this process.

“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 airberlin can become a sustainably profitable business, securing the jobs of its 8,900 employees and the many thousands more workers it indirectly supports.”

Explaining the merits of Etihad Airways’ equity investment strategy in Germany, Mr Hogan said: “This partnership has very clear benefits for Etihad Airways too. When we embarked on our partnership with Airberlin in 2011 our access into the tightly restricted German market was limited. We operated just 25 flights per week to three destinations.

“In one single transaction at that time, for less than the cost of a single wide-body aircraft, Etihad Airways gained access to more than 30 million passengers and a combined European network of 228 destinations across 84 countries.

“Today the picture is very different and Germany is at the center of our European network. Just two years on, the two airlines now 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 €200 million in new revenues.

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

Both airlines’ passenger numbers are expected to grow further as Etihad Airways’ equity alliance partners, such as Air Serbia and Etihad Regional, and Airberlin’s broad range of commercial partners extend codesharing to Airberlin’s route network.

The benefits of this equity partnership extend beyond network access. Leveraging economies of scale and collective purchasing power, the cost synergies came through joint procurement initiatives in aircraft, engines, maintenance, catering and technology.

The successful contribution came despite very challenging market conditions for airberlin, which reported operating losses for the year ended at December 31, 2013 of -€231.9 million.

The German carrier was successful in reaching its €200 million 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. Business and cost synergies achieved with Etihad Airways played an important part in these savings.

However, Airberlin reported an unusually sluggish outbound summer season due to the hot weather, followed by the traditionally difficult winter quarter. This was compounded by increased competition and on-going weakness in the European economies.

Copyright Photo: Andi Hiltl/ Airberlin and Etihad Airways are now more deeply involved then ever. Both need to prosper for the alliance network to work well. Airbus A320-214 D-ABDU (msn 3516) at Zurich in the joint livery now symbolizes this “Moving Forward” marriage.

Airberlin: AG Slide Show

Etihad Airways: AG Slide Show