Lufthansa CEO says it’s seeking state aid in Germany, other countries

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FILE PHOTO: Carsten Spohr, Chairman of the Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Lufthansa AG attends the Europe Aviation Summit in Brussels, Belgium March 3, 2020. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) will seek state aid in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Austria as the coronavirus crisis that forced it to ground almost all of its planes will persist longer than feared, the German airline’s chief executive said.

“I am optimistic that the talks in Bern, Berlin, Brussels and Vienna will lead to good and positive results,” CEO Carsten Spohr said in a video message to staff that was posted online.

People close to the matter told Reuters last week that Germany was in talks to provide Lufthansa, which has grounded 95% of its fleet due to the pandemic, with billions of euros in state aid and could take a stake in the airline.

Spohr added that Lufthansa was lucky to have a liquidity buffer of more than 4 billion euros ($4.35 billion), but some of that was owed to customers that have paid for now-cancelled flights and the carrier was currently losing cash at a rate of 1 million euros per hour, possibly for months to come.

“This crisis will take much longer than we could have imagined just a few weeks ago,” Spohr said.

Lufthansa, which also owns Swiss International, Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines, has previously said it was considering requests for state support.

Peers including IAG (ICAG.L), easyJet (EZJ.L) and Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) have all but halted operations in the face of the pandemic.

($1 = 0.9205 euros)

Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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