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No decision on future of Swissair

For now, it's business as usual at Swissair


The supervisory board of the aviation group, SAir, says it has taken no decision on the future of its flagship airline, Swissair, despite speculation of a sell-off.

After meeting on Wednesday, the board issued a statement saying it was weighing various options and that it wanted to consider them in greater depth.

Rumours of an impending sale have been mounting as the group struggles to reverse a disappointing performance caused partly by soaring oil prices as well as over-capacity in the industry. Swissair is under pressure as consolidation leads to more heavyweight alliances among the biggest players.

The uncertainty surrounding corporate strategy caused wild swings in the group's share price in the past week despite denials that Swissair will be sold to British Airways or Lufthansa.

Some analysts think SAirGroup may seal an agreement with an airline outside Europe.

"I am convinced that they've been trying to get an agreement with American Airlines," business journalist, Marcus Gisler, told swissinfo. "It makes most sense because if they sell to British Airways or Lufthansa, Swissair will become the junior European partner."

American Airlines already has commercial agreements with Swissair and is also said to be in talks with the Italian national carrier, Alitalia. Gisler said a tie up with Alitalia and Swissair could give American Airlines the European platform it wants.

Most analysts don't expect SAirGroup to sell a majority stake in Swissair but some think it could hive off up to 40 per cent. That would still signal a huge change in direction.

Until now, SAirGroup has followed a policy of maintaining Swissair's independence by forging a string of alliances with smaller airlines such as TAP Air Portugal and the Belgian carrier, Sabena.

The architect of the current strategy is SAirGroup's chief executive, Philippe Bruggisser.

"Swissair has been trying for years now to build up a force in Europe with minor companies such as TAP Air Portugal and Sabena but all these stakes have turned out to be more difficult to handle than was thought," said Gisler.

Bruggisser wanted to keep Swissair out of large international alliances to preserve its independence while building up airline-related businesses such as hotels, catering and aircraft maintenance.

But losses at Swissair's Belgian associate, Sabena, and restructuring costs at three French airline units are eroding margins.

Some analysts believe there are other options open to SAirGroup. The airline could enter a major alliance without any sale taking place or the hotel business could be sold off to finance Swissair.

swissinfo with agencies

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