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Business

Lufthansa Still Under Heavy Cloud Cover

The outlook for Germany's largest airline is improving, but not by that much, chairman Jürgen Weber announced Thursday. Shaky traveler confidence and low-airfare battles have dampened hopes for a complete turnaound.

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Not out of the dark yet.

Forget last year, it's time to focus on next year.

That was the message Germany's flagship airliner, Lufthansa, sent to shareholders upon presenting last year's results. As predicted the concern suffered heavy losses as a result of the airline crisis following terrorist attacks in the United States.

Lufthansa announced it was forced to cut its shareholder dividend and posted net losses of 633 million euro. The company's stock also fell 44 percent, and was down in trading following the Thursday announcement.

The aviation industry "was put to an unprecendented test," last year, charima Jürgen Weber told shareholders.

While airlines like Swissair and Belgium's Sabena filed for bankruptcy, Lufthansa was struggling to stay afloat. The corporation grounded jets and cut down on routes in an effort to save money, but avoided any mass firings.

"We want to bring this year to an end as soon as possible," Weber said, echoing the sentiment of many in the travel industry.

Skies far from friendly

Still, Weber was hesitant to predict a full recovery in 2002. Traveler confidence remains shaky, especially following a recent terrorist attack that killed 16 tourists on the island of Djerba in Tunisia and pictures of a plane crashing into a Milan office building that re-awakened Sept. 11 trauma for many.

The concern is also facing a fierce domestic battle against low-fare airlines that have been snatching away customers during Germany's economic slump.

In his speech Weber refused to put a number on his predicted 2002 turnaround, saying only that first quarter results "wouldn't disappoint" follwing the airline's cost-cutting measures.

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