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EU considers Sabena investment probe

The EU is considering whether to formally investigate a cash injection in Sabena


The European Union is considering whether to investigate a cash injection from the Belgian government in Sabena, the national airline.

A spokesman for the European Commission, the EU`s governing body, revealed the probe deliberation at the Commission's daily news briefing on Monday. "The Commission is currently thinking about opening a formal investigation on state aids in the case of Sabena," said the spokesman, Gilles Gantelet.

The EU is expected to decide on July 25 whether to undertake the investigation.

In January, the Belgian government and its partner, the Swissair Group, approved a €250 million (SFr378 million) capital increase for Sabena. Belgium, which owns 50.5 per cent of Sabena, agreed to contribute €100 million.

The Commission said it is contemplating the probe because of uncertainty over whether Swissair, which holds the remainder of Sabena, would respect a financial commitment it made in January.

Swissair Group's former management agreed at that time to increase its stake in the money-losing Belgian airline from 49.5 per cent to 85 per cent.

However, since revealing massive losses of its own in 2000, Swissair's new executive chairman, Mario Corti, has expressed the company's unwillingness to continue with the Sabena deal.

"Based on the situation, we prefer to cover the legal aspects by opening a formal investigation, which clearly does not mean that there is state aid or there is not state aid. This is exactly what the investigation will have to solve," Gantelet said.

swissinfo with agencies

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