France says Dutch move on Air France-KLM ‘benefits nobody’

The logo of Air France — KLM is pictured at Terminal 2E at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris, August 6, 2018. — AFP pic
The logo of Air France — KLM is pictured at Terminal 2E at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris, August 6, 2018. — AFP pic

PARIS, Feb 28 — French Finance Minister Bruno Le Marie warned today that the Dutch government’s purchase of a major stake in Air France-KLM “benefits nobody”, as investors braced for management turbulence at the airline.

“It’s not reasonable to remain in this situation, which benefits nobody — not Air France, not KLM, and not the airline as a whole,” Le Maire told Public Senat television.

He will hold talks with Dutch Finance Minister in Paris on Friday to discuss the Netherlands’ purchase of a 14 per cent stake in the Franco-Dutch airline, just under the 14.3 per cent already held by France.

“Together let’s try to find a way out of this,” Le Maire said, adding that he expected “explanations” from his Dutch counterpart.

But he insisted that the alliance formed in 2004 remained “solid,” despite concerns that the Dutch intend to step up their oversight of CEO Ben Smith’s plans to improve profitability in Europe’s cutthroat aviation market.

Air France-KLM’s stock sank a further 1.3 per cent in opening trade in Paris on Thursday, after the Dutch government announced late yesterday it had bulked up its holding to 14 per cent.

The shares plunged 11.7 per cent on Wednesday after news broke of the Dutch government’s initial stealth purchase of a 12.7 per cent stake, catching the French establishment off guard. — AFP

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