Air France-KLM in talks on state-backed loan package

Governments are urgently looking to support the world’s major airlines that are at risk of bankruptcy as air traffic has been brought to a standstill. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 04 April 2020

Air France-KLM in talks on state-backed loan package

  • French and Dutch governments said to be in talks over multi-billion euro deal

PARIS: Air France-KLM is in talks with banks to receive billions of euros in loans guaranteed by the French and Dutch governments, as the airline group braces for a sustained coronavirus shutdown, sources told Reuters.

The two states, which each own 14 percent of Air France-KLM, have paused a long-running boardroom feud to address the cash crunch, according to three people close to the discussions. Details and amounts are not finalized and could change, the people said. Under the most likely scenario, Air France may get as much as €4 billion ($4.3 billioon) in French-guaranteed loans while KLM receives close to €2 billion backed by The Hague, one source said.

The group has appointed BNP and Societe Generale to advise on refinancing, two of the sources said.

Both banks declined to comment.

“We are naturally in constant discussions with both governments,” an Air France-KLM spokeswoman said, declining further comment.

The French and Dutch governments also declined to comment in detail on the Air France-KLM talks. Both countries have expressed willingness to offer financial help.

“We’ve been in discussions for a long period of time with KLM and Air France and very specifically with the French state,” Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra told Reuters on Wednesday. “It’s extremely important to help this vital company through these difficult times.”

Governments around the world are scrambling to prop up major airlines that are at risk of bankruptcy as the pandemic gathers pace, gutting travel demand and bringing traffic to an indefinite standstill.

The US Senate approved a $58 billion bailout for the American aviation industry on March 25. In Europe, Norwegian Air and SAS have received pledges of state support, while Lufthansa is poised to receive billions in aid.


EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

Updated 29 May 2020

EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

  • To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible

BRUSSELS: The European Commission pledged on Thursday to stay away from fossil-fueled projects in its coronavirus recovery strategy, and to stick to its target of making Europe the first climate neutral continent by the middle of the century, but environmental groups said they were unimpressed.

To weather the deep recession triggered by the pandemic, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a €1.85 trillion ($2 trillion) package consisting of a revised long-term budget and a recovery fund, with 25 percent of the funding set aside for climate action.

To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible, the EU’s executive arm wants to increase a €7.5-billion ($8.25 billion) fund presented earlier this year that was part of an investment plan aiming at making the continent more environmentally friendly.

Under the commission’s new plan, which requires the approval of member states, the mechanism will be expanded to €40 billion ($44 billion) and is expected to generate another €150 billion in public and private investment. The money is designed to help coal-dependent countries weather the costs of moving away from fossil fuels.

Environmental group WWF acknowledged the commission’s efforts but expressed fears the money could go to “harmful activities such as fossil fuels or building new airports and motorways.”

“It can’t be used to move from coal to coal,” Frans Timmermans, the commission executive vice president in charge the European Green Deal, responded on Thursday. “It is unthinkable that support will be given to go from coal to coal. That is how we are going to approach the issue. That’s the only way you can ensure you actually do not harm.”

Timmermans conceded, however, that projects involving fossil fuels could sometimes be necessary, especially the use of natural gas to help move away from coal.

The commission also wants to dedicate an extra €15 billion ($16.5 billion) to an agricultural fund supporting rural areas in their transition toward a greener model.

Von der Leyen, who took office last year, has made the fight against climate change the priority of her term. Timmermans insisted that her goal to make Europe the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 remained unchanged, confirming that upgraded targets for the 2030 horizon would be presented by September.

Reacting to the executive arm’s recovery plans, Greenpeace lashed out at a project it described as “contradictory at best and damaging at worst,” accusing the commission of sticking to a growth-driven mentality detrimental to the environment.

“The plan includes several eye-catching green `options,’ including home renovation schemes, taxes on single-use plastic waste and the revenues of digital giants like Google and Facebook. But it does not solve the problem of existing support for gas, oil, coal, and industrial farming — some of the main drivers of a mounting climate and environmental emergency,” Greenpeace said.

“The plan also fails to set strict social or green conditions on access to funding for polluters like airlines or carmakers.”

Timmermans said the EU would keep investing in the development of emission-free public transportation, and promoting clean private transport through the EU budget.