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By Arno Schuetze and Ilona Wissenbach
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Lufthansa is planning to launch an asset disposal programme as early as summer with the sale of its 1 billion euro ($1.19 billion) Airplus unit as the German carrier seeks to raise cash to emerge from a government bailout, people close to the matter said.
Lufthansa is working with Goldman Sachs on the divestiture of the business travel expenses manager, the sources said, adding that the summer timing of the auction will depend on bookings picking up after lockdown restrictions ease.
Lufthansa declined to comment while Goldman Sachs was not immediately available for comment.
Chief Financial Officer Remco Steenbergen said last week that Lufthansa will evaluate strategic options for Airplus and the international business of its caterer LSG once it is able to realise the full value of these businesses.
Lufthansa is also considering a listing or stake sale of maintenance unit Lufthansa Technik, Steenbergen said, adding that a such deal would be complex as it would need to ensure Lufthansa's continued access to know-how and intellectual property and not have negative repercussions on relationships with customers.
The coronavirus pandemic led Lufthansa to report a record 6.7 billion euro loss for 2020 last week and the carrier said it will operate at 40-50% of pre-crisis capacity this year, lowering its earlier 40-60% ambition.
Summer travel will nonetheless pick up swiftly whenever restrictions are eased, Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said, and Lufthansa stands ready to restore 70% of its schedule "in the short term".
However, Lufthansa expects recovery in business trips to occur slower than in leisure travel, as many companies have learned during the pandemic that video conferences can replace a lot of face-to-face meetings.
Lufthansa received a government-backed 9 billion euro rescue last June. To avoid drawing on some of the costly bailout money, Lufthansa is aiming to reap funds from asset sales instead.
Lufthansa is still burning through 10 million euros a day as lockdowns and travel restrictions weigh on its business.
Airplus in 2020 posted an adjusted loss before interest and taxes of 146 million euros as bookings were wiped out in the pandemic, compared to a year-earlier profit of 2 million euros.
($1 = 0.8410 euros)
(Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)