Lufthansa warns profits to slide again this year

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By JUERGEN BAETZ, Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG on Thursday warned of lower profits this year due to high fuel prices and economic uncertainties caused by the debt crisis.

The operating profit is expected to slide from euro820 million ($1.1 billion) in 2011 to a "mid three-figure million euro range" in 2012, it said.

Lufthansa noted that "the implementation of austerity plans in the overly indebted countries of the European Union raises the danger of an overall economic weakening and further receding growth in Europe."

The cautious forecast came as Lufthansa presented its full-year report, a week after announcing it posted a 2011 net loss of euro13 million because of costs at its troubled British Midland International subsidiary.

Lufthansa has agreed to sell the lossmaking airline to British Airways' parent company, International Airlines Group. The deal has yet to receive regulatory approval.

Lufthansa's 2011 revenue rose 8 percent to euro28.7 billion.

Higher fuel costs and new air traffic taxes in Germany and Austria caused contribution of Lufthansa's passenger business to the company's overall 2011 operating profit to fall by 44.5 percent from euro629 million to euro361 million because of .

Lufthansa subsidiary Austrian Airlines' revenue stayed flat at just more than euro2 billion and it registered another full-year operating loss, this year of euro62 million.

The Cologne-based company's subsidiary Swiss Air, in turn, saw revenues climb by 14 percent to euro4 billion in 2011, while operating profit fell slightly from euro298 million to euro259 million.

Lufthansa does not publish separate fourth-quarter figures.

The company also holds stakes in Brussels Airlines and JetBlue of the United States.

Lufthansa shares slid about 1.5 percent to euro10.36 in early trading in Germany.

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