Volga-Dnepr details benefits of Air Cargo Germany tie-up

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Russia's Volga-Dnepr Group has bought 49% of cargo carrier Air Cargo Germany, but has not revealed any financial details of the transaction.

Volga-Dnepr president Alexey Isaikin, speaking at an event to mark delivery of a Boeing 747-8F, said the deal took place in the first quarter of the year, and that Frankfurt-based ACG has already started co-ordinating schedules with AirBridge Cargo, Volga-Dnepr's scheduled freighter subsidiary.

Further harmonisation, and possibly new routes, are to follow over the coming months.

One immediate benefit for AirBridge seems to be access to ACG's transatlantic traffic rights. The German carrier has already launched a twice-weekly freighter from Frankfurt Hahn to Chicago as a consequence of the deal, and is starting a twice weekly service to Mexico City on 21 April.

ACG chief executive Michael Bock says it will also continue to operate its four 747-400Fs on routes such as Johannesburg and Shanghai via Almaty, but these will benefit form AirBridge Cargo sales support. The airline will remain based at Hahn airport, 110km west of Frankfurt.

The deal allays doubt over the future of ACG, which has not made a profit since it was launched in July 2009.

Bock, who retains a 51% stake, insists that its loss levels have been normal for a start-up, with the 2010 loss of €10 million ($13 million) being only 2% of revenues.

"So I think we have been doing well, and have now found a strategic partner to take us to the next level," he says.

Volga-Dnepr's acquisition strengthens AirBridge Cargo's position as the second-largest cargo carrier at Frankfurt after Lufthansa. It took delivery of its second 747-8 freighter on 2 April, with a third to come in September and two in 2013. Despite a weakening air cargo market, it predicts 15 percent tonnage growth for the year ahead.