Germany’s richest man increased his stake in Deutsche Lufthansa AG, buying stock offloaded by the country’s government as part of its exit from the flagship carrier.
Klaus-Michael Kuehne now owns 17.5% of Lufthansa, according to an emailed statement from his holding group Wednesday. The billionaire this year overtook the German state as the biggest shareholder, investing a chunk of a fortune made in logistics.
“This underscores Kuehne Holding’s positive view of the company,” a spokeswoman for the group said via email. She declined to comment further on whether Kuehne would add to his stake further.
Kuehne has a net worth of $32.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is honorary chairman and majority owner of Kuehne + Nagel, the world’s largest sea-freight forwarder.
The size of Kuehne’s stake would mean he’s likely to be able to put a representative on Lufthansa’s supervisory board when a place becomes available, according to a person familiar with the matter. The terms of four shareholder representatives are due to expire before the 2023 annual meeting, an event where stockholders vote on new appointments.
While the magnate hasn’t commented publicly on his overall vision for the Lufthansa stake, several major shipping companies are branching into commercial aviation following the boom in air cargo during the Covid-19 pandemic and congestion in land- and sea-based freight.
French logistics giant CMA CGM SA in May agreed to acquire a stake in Air France-KLM, while container giant MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co SA made a failed bid with Lufthansa to acquire Italia Trasporto Aereo, known as ITA, the successor to failed carrier Alitalia.
Kuehne’s purchase comes after Germany’s Economic Stabilization Fund, or WSF, disposed of its remaining stake Europe’s largest airline via a placement with investors, netting a 760 million euros ($758 million) profit. The state stepped in during 2020 to rescue Lufthansa after pandemic-related travel restrictions all but grounded air travel.
Kuehne’s holding company owns a 30% stake in German shipping firm Hapag-Lloyd AG, a company that hasn’t made an attempt to acquire aviation operations. Lufthansa’s cargo division operates a fleet of large aircraft and also makes use of the belly space in the passenger division’s jets.
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