Air France-KLM plans sales and efficiency drive to lift profit

Air France-KLM Chief Executive Officer Benjamin Smith poses during a photo session in Paris on November 4, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 05 November 2019

Air France-KLM plans sales and efficiency drive to lift profit

  • The group also pledged to drive costs lower by speeding up the renewal of its fleet and being more flexible in managing the combined Air France-KLM fleet of more than 500 aircraft

PARIS: Air France-KLM will combine a sales drive with efficiencies including better fleet management to lift profit margins to 7-8 percent over the medium term, the airline group’s CEO Ben Smith told investors on Tuesday.
“The Air France-KLM group has all the assets to regain its leadership position,” Smith said in a company statement ahead of his first major strategy presentation since joining from Air Canada last year.
After a wave of 2018 strikes that grounded flights and cost €335 million ($373 million), the Franco-Dutch group has stabilized under Smith’s leadership thanks to union deals that have pushed up wage costs but increased operating flexibility.
Air France’s operating margin came in at 4.8 percent for the first 9 months of 2019, a 1.7 point decline from the same period a year earlier.
Under his new five-year plan, Smith vowed to lift profitability and restore dividends by “simplifying our fleet, clarifying our brand and market positioning and unlocking significant commercial and operational flexibility” thanks to labor deals. Air France-KLM has not paid a dividend since 2008.
The group also pledged to drive costs lower by speeding up the renewal of its fleet and being more flexible in managing the combined Air France-KLM fleet of more than 500 aircraft.
Air France-KLM took a €100 million charge last quarter to retire its Airbus A380 superjumbos early and replace them with more fuel-efficient planes.
Smith also overcame Dutch objections earlier this year to push through an integration plan combining management of the Air France and KLM aircraft fleets, which were still being handled separately 15 years after the airlines merged.
Air France-KLM shares were down 1.1 percent at €10.45. The stock has risen 11.5 percent so far this year, partly in anticipation of Smith’s mid-term performance plan.
To boost sales, the group said it aimed to sharpen the focus of its three main airline brands.


Alibaba confirms huge Hong Kong public listing worth at least $13bn

Updated 15 November 2019

Alibaba confirms huge Hong Kong public listing worth at least $13bn

  • Over-allocation options could take the total value to more than $13 billion, making it one of the biggest IPOs in Hong Kong for a decade
  • Alibaba Chief Executive Officer said the group wanted to participate in Hong Kong’s future

HONG KONG: Chinese technology giant Alibaba on Friday confirmed plans to list in Hong Kong in what it called a $13 billion vote of confidence in the turbulent city’s markets and a step forward in its plans to go global.
The enormous IPO, which Hong Kong had lobbied for, will come as a boost for authorities wrestling with pro-democracy protests that have tarnished the financial hub’s image for order and security and hammered its stock market.
Alibaba will offer 500 million shares at a maximum of HK$188 apiece to retail investors, the company said. The number eight is considered auspicious in China.
Over-allocation options could take the total value to more than $13 billion, making it one of the biggest IPOs in Hong Kong for a decade after insurance giant AIA raised $20.5 billion in 2010.
Alibaba had planned to list in the summer but called it off owing to the city’s long-running pro-democracy protests and the China-US trade war. The US and China are now working on sealing a partial trade deal.
Daniel Zhang, Alibaba Chief Executive Officer, said the group wanted to “contribute, in our small way, and participate in the future of Hong Kong.”
“During this time of ongoing change, we continue to believe that the future of Hong Kong remains bright,” he said.
The firm’s shares are already traded in New York. A second listing in Hong Kong is expected to curry favor with Beijing, which has sought to encourage its current and future big tech firms to list nearer to home after the loss of companies such as Baidu to Wall Street.
In the statement, Zhang said that when Alibaba went public in 2014 it “missed out on Hong Kong with regret.”
Mainland authorities have also stepped up moves to attract such listings, including launching a new technology board in Shanghai in July.
The listing comes after the city’s exchange tweaked the rules to allow double listings, while Chief Executive Carrie Lam had also been pushing Alibaba’s billionaire founder Jack Ma to sell shares in the city.
“The listing in Hong Kong will allow more of the company’s users and stakeholders in the Alibaba digital economy across Asia to invest and participate in Alibaba’s growth,” the company said.
It has long been expected to launch a multibillion-dollar stock listing in Hong Kong but appeared to postpone the offering because of political and economic turmoil.
Hong Kong’s key Hang Seng Index rose 0.48 percent in morning trading following the announcement
Chinese shoppers set new records for spending on Monday’s annual 24-hour “Singles’ Day” buying spree, despite an economic slowdown in the country and the worries over the US trade war.
It said consumers spent $38.3 billion on its platforms over that stretch, up 26 percent from the previous all-time high mark set last year.
Alibaba also said it saw record amounts of cross-border sales, underlining its plans to expand globally.
“Globalization is the future of Alibaba Group. We firmly believe the marriage of digital technology and commerce will bring about unprecedented change that will not be limited by borders,” Zhang said.