Air France KLM CEO says state could sell stake in company: FT

PARIS (Reuters) – Air France KLM’s (AIRF.PA) new Chief Executive Benjamin Smith said the French state is prepared to sell its 14 percent stake in the airline, according to the Financial Times.

FILE PHOTO: Benjamin Smith poses for a picture during a reception at the 2016 International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit in Dublin, Ireland June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Smith said French President Emmanuel Macron was prepared to sell the 14 percent stake — even though “there are some people in Air France that believe that this is something they can have as an insurance”, the FT reported.

The CEO told the daily that there were “a lot of other areas that the government needs to spend its money on.”

“At the end of the day, it’s very expensive to bail out an airline,” he added.

Air France KLM’s shares have plunged nearly 40 percent so far in 2018, mainly due to the impact of strikes, led by unions seeking better pay and working conditions.

The French government has the biggest individual stake in Air France KLM with 14 percent, while Delta Airlines (DAL.N) and China Eastern Airlines (600115.SS) each hold 8.8 percent.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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