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Sabena takes Swissair to court

Sabena is demanding millions of francs in compensation Keystone

The Belgian government and the country's collapsed national airline, Sabena, have launched legal proceedings against the Swissair Group.

They are claiming millions of francs in compensation for alleged contractual failures on the part of its former Swiss co-owner.

Announcing the decision to take action through the commercial court in Brussels, the minister for public works, Rik Daems, said the Swissair Group had committed “a series of errors”.

The Belgian minister added that the Swiss carrier had failed to honour agreements signed between the two companies in January and August this year.

He specifically highlighted Swissair Group’s failure to come through with a SFr630 million aid package and an order of nine new planes.

As a result, the Belgian government and other shareholders are demanding SFr774 million for Sabena, plus provisional compensation of SFr519 million.

On top of the SFr774 million, the bankrupt Belgian airline is also asking for compensation of SFr236 million for the Swissair Group’s failure to provide new planes for its fleet.

Swissair took a 49.5 per cent stake in Sabena in 1995, against the Belgian government’s 50.5 per cent holding. In April last year, the Swiss airline agreed to increase its shareholding to 85 per cent.

However in July this year, the Swissair Group attempted to renegotiate its position with Sabena down to a 49.5 per cent shareholding in return for a cash injection of around SFr390 million.

On October 1, when it was itself on the verge of collapse, Swissair announced that the financial package would not be coming through.

Sabena, which was founded in 1923, only made a profit twice during its existence. The company filed for bankruptcy earlier this month after failing to find any new investors.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR