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Lufthansa to sell payments unit for EUR450M

FRANKFURT, GERMANY (AFP) – Lufthansa said yesterday it would sell payments subsidiary AirPlus to Sweden’s SEB Kort Bank for around EUR450 million (USD490 million), as part of the German group’s efforts to refocus on its airline business.

The sale of AirPlus, which provides corporate travel payment services, “is the next major step” in Lufthansa’s strategy “to focus on its core business going forward”, Chief Financial Officer Remco Steenbergen said in a statement. It comes after Lufthansa in April announced the divestment of its LSG catering business, and last month agreed to buy a 41-per cent stake in Italy’s ITA Airways.

“Selling two group companies and agreeing on a stake in ITA – all in less than three months – clearly shows our determination in executing this strategy,” said Steenbergen.

The Lufthansa group – one of Europe’s biggest airlines – was brought to the brink of bankruptcy when the COVID-19 pandemic saw global air travel grind to a halt, and had to be bailed out by the German government in 2020.

The group recovered swiftly once coronavirus curbs eased and demand for air travel bounced back.

It returned to the black in 2022, posting a net profit of EUR791 million, and has expressed confidence about meeting its 2023 targets amid ongoing strong demand.

Lufthansa said the AirPlus sale was expected to “have a positive effect” on the group’s operating profits and return on capital.

The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2024.

“By joining forces, SEB Kort and AirPlus will be well placed for the future corporate payments market, benefitting from complementary strengths, synergies and scale benefits,” President and Chief Executive Officer Johan Torgeby of SEB group, said in the same statement.

A fleet of Lufthansa planes on a runway. PHOTO: AFP