Berlin-based Zeitfracht-Group, owner of a wide-reaching network of companies, has now added an airport to its assets: Rostock-Laage Airport (RLG). According to the new owner, the airport located close to the Baltic Sea in northeast Germany, will become an air freight transshipment point and sorting and distribution center. Erecting a large cargo terminal is part of the investment plan. The parties involved remained tight-lipped regarding the financial details of the deal. The ownership change will become effective 01JAN22.
Presumably, his role model is Elon Musk. Judging by the diverse entrepreneurial activities kicked off by CEO, Wolfram Simon-Schroeter of the Zeitfracht-Group, this analogy certainly comes to mind, albeit on a more modest scale. Since the graduate in business administration took over the management of the company in 2015, there has been a dizzying sequence of company acquisitions, followed by resales. This is best exemplified by the fate of the former freight division of Air Berlin, Leisure Cargo, that was purchased by Zeitfracht in 2017, and sold a year later. Similarly, most of today’s subsidiaries belonging to the group were bankrupt and bought out of the insolvency estate by Mr. Simon-Schroeter. In addition to various freight forwarders also a shipping company and a textile retail chain called Adler with a total of 172 stores in Germany.
Perpetual shortage of money
Rostock's Laage Airport has been in the red for years and only state funding has kept it operational. The key reason for public funding is the fact that the airport is an important base for the German Air Force, which has fighter aircraft stationed there and maintains them on site. So, Rostock is a hybrid airport, used by both military and commercial enterprises. This dual-use concept will not change, assures Zeitfracht Head of Communications, Heinz-Joachim Schoettes. Particularly since the military is partly responsible for securing an adequate airport infrastructure.
In the past, and especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, RLG was only able to operate at a high loss. So, a U-turn was needed, figured the public owners. They decided to initiate a so-called public expression of interest procedure. The aim was to find out whether a private company would be willing to invest in the airport, and that is how the Zeitfracht Group came to submit a corresponding offer and concept for the future.
Far reaching plans
The plans include the construction of a logistics center in which air freight and road transport can be closely interlinked. In addition, leasing freighters to operate long-haul cargo flights are a core part of the business plan. “We are focusing on larger freighters and are in discussions with lessors,” says speaker Schoettes. Which aircraft models his company is targeting, whether Boeing or Airbus variants, he does not reveal. Currently, Zeitfracht’s own fleet consists of 15 passenger turboprops Dash 8-Q400 and 8 Embraer E-190 jetliners. Thanks to the 2017 finalized acquisition of carrier WDL Aviation, which was shortly afterwards rebranded as German Airways, Zeitfracht holds an AOC.
But the company’s Rostock concept goes even further. According to a release, initiatives to transform the place into an innovation and technology center for the aerospace industry and as a location for renewable energies, are under way. Specifics will be announced next January, Mr. Schoettes says, after ownership has been transferred.
Rostock’s Wolfram Musk
Meanwhile, politics has welcomed the project. Transport Minister, Reinhard Meyer of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state, welcomed the decision: “The new investor has thrilling ideas and will bring fresh momentum to the airport. This way, Rostock-Laage will become even more attractive,” said the Social Democrat.
Preserving existing jobs is one result, creating new ones is an even better perspective, Mr. Meyer stressed. References from him to Elon Musk, who is building a large Tesla factory near Berlin, 250 km distant from Rostock, are not known. However, the politician would supposedly not challenge recent comments that Wolfram Simon-Schroeter plays a similar role in Rostock-Laage comparable but at a much smaller scale to that of the U.S. billionaire.
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