Become more competitive before talking of selling stake: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire

Bruno Le Maire’s comments come in the wake of Air France-KLM’s Canadian boss telling Air France’s labour unions that they should not depend on the state to bail them out and that the government was prepared to offload its stake in the venture.

On Thursday, France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Air France-KLM’s chief executive that before France decides to sell its 14% stake in the company, the group should improve competitiveness.

Le Maire’s comments come in the wake of Benjamin Smith, Air France-KLM’s Canadian boss telling Air France’s labour unions that they should not depend on the state to bail them out and that the government was prepared to offload its stake in the venture.

Smith, who took over the reins of the group last week has the unenviable task of having to overcome union resistance to reduce the French unit’s swollen cost base while keeping increasingly frustrated Dutch staff on side.

Earlier this year, a wave of strikes at Air France has cost the group nearly $409.7 million (350 million euros); it also led to the ouster of Smith’s predecessor.

“Today the priority is to turn around Air France,” said Le Maire to franceinfo.

He went on to add, “Selling off the state’s stake in Air France is not part of Benjamin Smith’s action plan. It is not an option on the table today.”

With the news reaching the market, Air France KLM’s shares rose by 1.6%, although the stock is down by nearly 40%, so far, in 2018.

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