Lufthansa results signal profitable year

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FRANKFURT - Better first- quarter results point to a return to profit at Lufthansa after sharply reduced losses in 1993, according to the German national carrier, writes John Eisenhammer.

The airline reported a pre-tax loss of DM82m ( pounds 33.6m) in the first quarter compared with DM245m in the same period of 1993.

'We expect to make a profit in the second quarter,' said Klaus Schlede, the chief financial officer.

A cost-cutting programme that included job losses helped Lufthansa reduce its net loss to DM111m in 1993 from DM373m the previous year.

Jurgen Weber, chief executive, said Lufthansa was planning to buy a 38 per cent stake in Business Air, a SwissAir subsidiary. He said the stake was needed to strengthen co-operation with the airline in the British market.

Lufthansa and Business Air operate a joint service called Bank Shuttle to London's City Airport. Mr Weber also said Lufthansa planned to increase its stake in Austria's Lauda Air.

Lufthansa said the trend in sales and earnings in the first three months pointed to a revival. An 8 per cent rise in sales and continued curbs on costs cut the seasonal loss in the first quarter by a third. Mr Schlede said the airline made a first-quarter operating profit of DM23m, compared with a loss of DM107m last year.