The possible recapitalization of Air France, a new episode in the commitment of the French state


It is a question of “national sovereignty»For Bercy. To secure the solvency of Air France, the French flagship in the medium and long term, the State is once again preparing to come to the aid of the airline by ensuring a contribution of equity.

During the first containment, global transport was almost at a standstill. Over the months, many states have drawn up their national plan to save their flagship companies.

The last time the French state had put its hand in the portfolio in favor of the airline dates back to the spring of 1994.

In the heart of the storm at the end of April, Bercy had flown to the aid of Air France with historic support of 7 billion euros, including 4 billion in the form of bank loans guaranteed by the State at 90% and 3 billion euros. shareholder advance. This advance came from the envelope provided to the APE (State Participation Agency) for interventions in State equity in strategic groups in difficulty. The Air France-KLM group has also been able to count on its other main shareholder, the Dutch State, which provided a loan of 3.4 billion euros to KLM.

At the end of the year, and faced with the resurgence of the Covid-19 epidemic, the executive is now considering a possible recapitalization of the airline to help it raise the bar. The aim is in particular to reduce its debt-to-equity ratios so that the company can be able to refinance itself on the financial markets in the coming months. In the event of a recapitalization, validation of the project by the Netherlands would then be necessary.

Until this famous year 2020, Air France had not touched a single euro from the State for more than 25 years. The last time the French state had put its hand in the portfolio in favor of the airline dates back to the spring of 1994. It had obtained a recapitalization of 20 billion francs, spread over three years. At the time, it was a question of rescuing the airline on the verge of bankruptcy following a devastating social conflict. But the Hexagon was at that time almost the sole owner of the airline.

Then, at the dawn of the 21st century in 1999, Air France was partially privatized. Over the next two decades, the state’s shares gradually declined. After opening just over 20% of the capital to investors, the state’s share in the company was already only 54% four years later, just before the merger with the Dutch company KLM in April 2004. The latter had further reduced the state’s participation to 45%. Six years later, it is now at 14.3%.

In 2018, during a new major social conflict, the tenant of Bercy Bruno Le Maire declared that the French State did not “vocation to absorb the airline’s debt“. But at the time, the executive wanted above all to warn the striking staff that they would not fly to the aid of Air France, in the event that the conflict between the pilots and the management would greatly weaken the group.

Now, the unprecedented nature of the health crisis and the extent of the recession have largely redistributed the cards and brought down old doctrines, forcing the executive to review its economic policy.

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