Knorr-Bremse Majority Owner Threatens Lufthansa Bailout Plan

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Source: DW Akadamie post

MUNICH – Heinz Hermann Thiele, billionaire majority shareholder in Knorr-Bremse, has threatened to scuttle a bailout package for Lufthansa after buying up extra shares. The airline has warned it may apply for bankruptcy protection if the deal fails.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz denied on Wednesday that the federal government’s Lufthansa rescue package was at risk of collapse.

Scholz said he expected shareholders to vote in favor of the package, despite deep criticism of the deal from major shareholder Heinz Hermann Thiele.

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Thiele caused widespread upset last week when he argued that Lufthansa should reject the terms of the bailout package. Thiele is particularly opposed to the government taking a 20 percent stake in the airline, and its demand for two board seats — two of the requirements for the €9 billion ($10.1 billion) financial injection of taxpayer funds.

Shareholders will meet on June 25 to approve, or reject, the deal. Depending on attendance, it may require a two-thirds majority to pass. For its approval under European Union competition law, the European Commission also requires that the airline surrender 24 of its take-off and landing rights in Frankfurt and Munich to rivals.

Brake baron turning eyes to skies

Thiele’s comments caused Lufthansa to warn that it might be forced to apply for creditor protection if the deal lacks sufficient shareholder support.

Thiele, who is the majority owner of the commercial vehicle and rail brake manufacturer Knorr-Bremse, made the comments in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, revealing that he had raised his stake in Europe’s largest airline to 15 percent.

As an alternative, the 79-year-old Munich entrepreneur suggested an indirect government participation via Germany’s state-owned development bank KfW.

Lufthansa, like the entire aviation sector, has been hit hard by a pandemic-induced travel slump.

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