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Swissair anticipates losses

Swissair Group chief executive Mario Corti will be facing up to some tough numbers on Thursday

(Keystone)

Analysts' forecasts for Swissair Group's first-half losses vary from a loss of just SFr78 million ($47 million) to 10 times that amount.

Results for the airline and air catering group, due out on Thursday, are expected to reflect the global economic slowdown and the poor performance of Swissair's foreign affiliates.

Analysts' estimates vary widely, given a welter of one-time charges and divestment income that will blur the tough conditions its core aviation business still faces.

The results, however, may take a back seat to news on how the airline conglomerate's restructuring programme is faring. The restructuring aims to cut debt and boost shares.

Swissair had a record loss of SFr2.9 billion after taking a SFr2.7 billion charge for writing down its stake in money-losing Belgian airline Sabena, France's AOM/Air Liberté and LTU of Germany.

Withdrawal from France

Since then, the company has withdrawn from France and struck an agreement with the Belgian government that lets Swissair escape from boosting its minority stake in Sabena. But LTU is still a problem, financial analysts said.

"We expect that all main operations outside the flying activities will make a profit. Anything else would be a disappointment," said Patrik Schwendimann of Zurich Kantonalbank.

Banca del Gottardo's Paola Orler said investors and analysts would be faced with a difficult task on Thursday, because many exceptional items would affect the results.

She was expecting further details on the recently announced restructuring programme. Swissair has already said it plans to cut costs by SFr500 million by the end of the year.

This has raised questions about the distribution of destinations between Swissair and its Crossair regional subsidiary.

Among the other questions raised is the sale of its Flightlease aircraft portfolio, more divestments, any new provisions and the crucial liquidity situation.

Catering, freight "weaker"

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter said Swissair's Gate Gourmet catering unit, Swisscargo freight activities and the Swissport ground handling business were all experiencing a "weaker trading environment".

LTU, the German charter company in which it has a 49.9 per cent stake, was seen contributing a loss of SFr110 million.

While much of Swissair's financial problems were self-inflicted due to a failed foreign expansion plan, the entire airline industry is facing difficult times.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has warned that its 2001 operating income would be "well below" last year's as the United States-led global economic slowdown hits the industry hard.

British Airways said earlier this month that its operating profit in the first quarter of its financial year had halved and it also warned of a challenging year ahead.

Germany's Lufthansa reported a sharp decline in operating profits and said it hoped a good fourth quarter would help it meet its full-year profit targets.

Schroder Salomon Smith Barney said European airlines were suffering from weak air cargo and business travel, the impact on travel from "foot and mouth" disease, and labour strife.

It added that the second-half and 2002 earnings estimates were at risk at all European airlines as the US slowdown exerted pressure on consumer spending.

swissinfo with agencies


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