Air France-KLM has confirmed a surprise share swoop by the Dutch government.
The European carrier admitted that the move to acquire a 12.68% stake had come “without any consultation”.
It had previously been reported that the French government was only given an hour’s notice of the initial acquisition.
The €668 million move came as Dutch state looks to match France’s 14.3% shareholding in the airline from its previous 6% stake.
Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra was quoted by the BBC as saying the deal was to protect Dutch economic interests and jobs – particularly regarding Amsterdam Schiphol, Europe’s third busiest airport after Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle.
The airline then issued a statement to say that the group was “ready to confirm to the Dutch government commitments to continue strengthening Schiphol’s development as a European hub and to support KLM’s development”.
Air France-KLM added: “The board of directors will closely monitor the consequences of this new participation on the group, its employees, its governance structure and its market value.
“The board will ensure that this initiative will not negatively impact the new working dynamic of the group and its companies, recently initiated by the group CEO.
“The Air France-KLM board calls for all managers and staff to focus on commercial developments and operational improvements to help position the Air France-KLM Group as the leading air transport group in Europe.”
Canadian CEO Benjamin Smith was appointed last year following a series of strikes at Air France.
Speculation then emerged that KLM CEO Pieter Elbers position could be under threat because of his support for keeping the two operations separate. Elbers was guest speaker at last night’s Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association annual dinner in Glasgow.
However, a new group CEO committee was agreed earlier in February “to determine the strategic direction for all group airlines and business units”.
This committee will be chaired by Smith with Elbers Air France CEO Anne Rigail and group chief financial officer Frédéric Gagey reporting to him.
Rigail and Elbers were also appointed depty CEOs of Air France-KLM “and have expressed their commitment to build the group’s success alongside Benjamin Smith”.
The aim is to improve overall profitability through Increased “to better capture synergies, efficiencies and economies of scale”.
The group posted a 2018 operating result of €1.3 billion, down €591 million year-on-year, including a negative impact of €355 million from Air France strikes, as it carried more than 100 million passengers.
Air France-KLM has a 31% joint controlling interest in Virgin Atlantic alongside alliance partner Delta Air Lines.
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