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Lufthansa offering $54K to Germanwings plane crash families

By Danielle Haynes Follow @DanielleHaynes1 Contact the Author   |   March 27, 2015 at 5:59 PM
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COLOGNE, Germany, March 27 (UPI) -- German airline giant Lufthansa announced Friday it would pay out $54,000 per passenger who died on the Germanwings Flight 9525 to the families of the victims.

The airline said this is an initial payout and would not affect the families' potential attempts to make further claims against the airline.

"Of course we can't compensate materially for the lives of those lost, but we wanted to provide some immediate financial help to the affected families," said a spokeswoman for Germanwings, a budget carrier operating under Lufthansa.

One hundred and fifty people died on board the Airbus A320 when it crashed Tuesday in the French Alps. French investigators said the incident took place after the plane's pilot left co-pilot Andreas Lubitz alone in the cockpit. The pilot was then unable to get back into the cockpit, the door to which was locked.

Lubitz is accused of then intentionally lowering the plane's altitude until it crashed.

In the wake of the incident, several European and Canadian airlines changed their policies to incorporate the so-called "rule of two." This rule is already mandated in the United States by the Federal Aviation Administration, which says there must be two crew members in the cockpit at all times.

Lufthansa announced Friday it has now joined other airlines voluntarily adopting the rule. The airline says it is also creating a group safety pilot position to manage all flight safety procedures.

© 2015 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.

BlackBerry surprises analysts with $28M profit for Q4

BlackBerry is halfway into a rebound strategy designed to regain lost ground in the global smartphone market.
By Doug G. Ware   |   March 27, 2015 at 5:54 PM
TORONTO, March 27 (UPI) -- Smartphone pioneer BlackBerry surprised financial analysts on Friday by posting a net profit of nearly $30 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014, when experts expected a loss in that amount.

The Canadian mobile phone maker announced its fourth quarter earnings, which amount to an increase of five cents per share, halfway into its two-year turnaround strategy designed to better compete with other giants in the smartphone market, like Apple and Samsung.

BlackBerry's profit came as a surprise to many analysts, who had expected the Ontario-based company to post a loss roughly the same size as the reported profit.

"Analysts expect a loss of 4 cents per share and revenue of $802-million," Canada's The Globe and Mail reported earlier Friday. "Most agree that revenues will miss again, most likely thanks to slow hardware sales of the new Classic handset."

In Q4 2013, BlackBerry lost eight cents per share. In the last 12 months, those shares are up six percent, but they are down 11 percent since the start of 2015, Forbes reported Friday.

Once the world's leading smartphone maker, BlackBerry has lost tremendous ground in recent years, and now commands about one percent of the global market, the Wall Street Journal reported. CEO John Chen has previously noted the company is pursuing a two-year strategy to re-emerge in better financial and competitive shape. Two hallmarks of the plan, he said, are to cut costs and outsource device manufacturing.

BlackBerry is also focusing on its software development, attempting to capitalize on its business-centric reputation and penchant for mobile security.

"We are now halfway through our two-year turnaround effort and ... our financial house is in order," Chen said. "Our financial viability is no longer in question."

The company, formerly known as Research In Motion, posted nearly $3.3 billion in cash reserves at the end of the fourth quarter, which ended last month -- matching its all-time high.

Chen noted Friday that BlackBerry expects to achieve sustained operating profits sometime in the next 11 months. Part of that expectation relates to the introduction of two new devices, the Passport and Classic -- smartphones designed to appeal to government and business consumers that specialize in productivity.

Compared to the same time a year ago, BlackBerry's overall revenue has fallen more than $300 million. However, revenue from its software sales increased 20 percent in the fourth quarter. For the year, software sales totaled $234 million and company officials said they expect that number to reach $500 million for fiscal 2016.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, however, have expressed skepticism that BlackBerry can reach that target due largely to mediocre enthusiasm they observed among surveyed customers for BES12 -- mobile device management software introduced in November that allows businesses to manage employee-used smartphones.

BlackBerry, though, disagrees with the analysts' projections, noting success in getting several global carriers to resell its software. Chen said BlackBerry secured commitments in Q4 from more than 2,000 customers to use the software.

The company also said other indicators of potential growth -- like its new partnership with AT&T and Verizon -- didn't show up in the last quarter. Both carriers didn't begin selling Passports and Classics until just before or after Q4 2014 ended on Feb. 28.

Shares of BlackBerry Ltd. rose nearly two percent, or 16 cents per share, during normal trading on Wall Street Friday. After hours, it gained another three cents a share.

© 2015 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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