FRANKFURT/Cologne (dpa-AFX) - Deutsche Lufthansa is surprisingly replacing almost its entire management. Four of the six board members are leaving the Group almost simultaneously. In addition, the Supervisory Board is eliminating one Executive Board position entirely. Only the Chairman of the Executive Board, Carsten Spohr, and the former Chief Human Resources Officer, Michael Niggemann, will remain. In addition, the airline is threatened by a strike by cabin crew - and thus probably numerous flight cancellations once again. As a result, Lufthansa shares fell significantly on Friday.

Around midday, the shares lost 3.8 percent to 7.22 euros, making them one of the biggest losers in the MDax mid-cap index. In the meantime, the Lufthansa share price was at its lowest level since the beginning of November. In the current year, the airline has already lost more than ten percent of its market value.

Lufthansa announced the restructuring of the Executive Board on Thursday evening. As of July 1, the Lufthansa management board will have only five members instead of the previous six. The restructuring coincides with the departure of four members of the Executive Board.

The terms of office of Harry Hohmeister, Executive Board member responsible for Global Markets and Network Management, and Detlef Kayser, Executive Board member responsible for Fleet and Technology, will expire at the end of June. In addition, Christina Foerster, Head of Brand Management and Sustainability, and CFO Remco Steenbergen will leave the company at the end of June "by mutual agreement". Michael Niggemann, Board Member for Human Resources and Infrastructure, will then take over the finance department on an interim basis in addition to his current duties until a new appointment is made.

The extent of the changes is likely to raise eyebrows and possibly concerns about the risks that could arise from the changes, commented RBC analyst Ruairi Cullinane. Analyst Harry Gowers of US bank JPMorgan wrote that most of the attention will be on the departure of CFO Steenbergen. Steenbergen had done a very good job by consolidating the balance sheet, restructuring the cost base and then leading Lufthansa out of the pandemic. The financial strategy is now becoming less clear.

"After successfully overcoming the corona crisis, the subsequent recovery of air traffic and the economic turnaround, the Lufthansa Group is entering the next phase of its corporate development with a realignment of the Executive Board," the Lufthansa press release explained.

Karl-Ludwig Kley, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, stated that the challenges facing the industry and the company were different to those of previous years, but that they remained enormous. "We want to tackle them with new momentum and a changed team that combines even more international experience and diverse perspectives." Kley also expects a strong understanding of teamwork.

According to the Supervisory Board's decision, Grazia Vittadini, currently Special Advisor to Rolls-Royce, will be appointed to the Executive Board as Head of Technology and IT on July 1, 2024.

Also with effect from July 1, 2024, Dieter Vranckx, currently CEO of the subsidiary Swiss International Air Lines, will be appointed to the Executive Board as "Global Markets and Commercial Management Hubs". With his move to Frankfurt, Vranckx will take over Steenbergen's mandate as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Swiss Air. The Lufthansa Executive Board position of "Group Finance" is to be newly filled.

In addition to the extensive restructuring of the Executive Board, the threat of a new strike caused additional uncertainty among Lufthansa shareholders. On Thursday, the trade union Ufo declared the wage negotiations for around 18,000 cabin staff to have failed. It called on its members to decide on strikes in a ballot starting next week until March 6. The Independent Flight Attendants' Organization (Ufo) announced in Frankfurt that Lufthansa had not presented a sufficient offer in further top-level talks.

"We are not happy to take the path of escalation, but we have no alternative as long as Lufthansa does not respond to our justified demands," said Ufo Chairman Joachim Vázquez Bürger. The cabin has demands that are more than justified. During the crisis, the employees had made major concessions in order to secure jobs. He expects a high turnout for the ballot, said Bürger.

The union had already unilaterally broken off the salary negotiations for the flight attendants of the parent company at the end of January and showed itself ready to fight. It had terminated the collective pay agreement for Lufthansa cabin crew at the end of 2023.

Lufthansa is now facing an escalation of the next wage dispute. Pilots at the airline's subsidiary Discover recently went on strike to force a first collective agreement.

In addition, a second warning strike by ground staff almost paralyzed Lufthansa operations this week. Hundreds of flights were canceled and more than 100,000 passengers had to reschedule. A quick agreement with the trade union Verdi is not in sight.

Wage negotiations are also underway for aviation security staff. A nationwide warning strike organized by Verdi at the beginning of February also resulted in large-scale flight cancellations./he/als/niw/men/mis