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Business

Business Briefs

A record number of German companies are going under; CeBIT is gearing up in New York; and Lufthansa's future is taking off.

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Jürgen Weber, left, passes the baton to Lufthansa's new chairman, Wolfgang Mayrhuber.

Record number of German insolvencies

Germany logged a record number of insolvencies during the first quarter of 2003. The Federal Statistical Office on Wednesday reported that nearly 24,500 businesses and people began insolvency proceedings between January and March, 27 percent more than during the same period last year. With 9,750 corporate bankruptcies – the greatest number Germany ever recorded for a first quarter and the second biggest number overall since reunification in 1990. The country's statistical office is now forecasting that 40,000 businesses and people will go bust this year, up from 37,000 in 2002.

Germany's CeBIT opens in New York

German Education Minister Edelgard Bulmahn appeared Wednesday in New York at the opening of CeBIT America, the transatlantic arm of the world's largest computer and IT trade fair, which was founded in Hanover, Germany. Despite the troubled economic atmosphere in Europe and the United States, CeBIT organizers expect more than 20,000 visitors from 35 countries at the event. Appearing before an audience of close to 200 U.S. political and business representatives at the opening, Buhlman promoted foreign investment in Germany, pointing to the country's relatively low corporate taxes as an incentive to lure tech companies here. About 400 companies from 15 countries are demo-ing hardware, software and telecommunications equipment at the four-day event. CeBIT CEO Ernst Raue said the company is seeking to extend the reach of its global brand through the New York event. It already conducts trade fairs in Sydney, Istanbul and Shanghai.

Lufthansa's new chairmen takes reigns

Longtime Lufthansa Chairman Jürgen Weber on Wednesday passed the baton to his successor, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, at a shareholder's meeting in Cologne. In the months following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Lufthansa has undergone one of the worst crises in its history. This year, its problems were augmented by the war in Iraq and the SARS virus in Asia. But Weber bid adieu to the airline on an uplifting note, saying Lufthansa had seen its "first ray of hope" for a recovery next year. He added that the company believed it could increase cash flow by an additional €1 billion ($1.2 million) by the end of 2004. "If the trend of the last few weeks persists, I think that we will again be in a better position than most of our competitors at the end of this year," Weber told shareholders. "We have come out of the valley of tears," he said. But the immediate future is bleaker: The company said it expected its revenues for 2003 to be "poor."

Volkswagen invests in Spain

The German automaker Volkswagen is planning to invest more than a billion euros in Spain by the year 2006. CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder announced on Wednesday in Madrid that the Wolsburg-based company would spend most of the money on its design center in Barcelona. The Spanish finance ministry estimates the total investment to be roughly 1.25 billion euros. The Spanish car brand Seat is a subsidiary of the Volkswagen corporation.