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Portugal warns SAirGroup to honour airline deal

TAP Air Portugal president, Manuel Ferreira de Lima (left) agreed the deal with former SAirGroup boss, Philippe Bruggisser

(Keystone Archive)

The Portuguese government has warned the SAirGroup that it will seek damages if the Swiss airline company pulls out of a planned alliance with TAP-Air Portugal.

The Swiss group had agreed to pay 20 billion escudos (SFr154 million) for a 34 per cent stake in the loss-making Portuguese airline, but the deal was thrown into doubt on Tuesday when SAirGroup said it was calling a halt to all acquisitions in the airline sector.

The announcement followed Tuesday's news that SAirGroup's chief executive, Philippe Bruggisser, was stepping down.

Although the deal was first signed over two years ago, authorisation from the European Commission is also still pending.

"I have asked for an emergency meeting to clarify the situation," Portugal's public works minister, Jorge Coehlo, told Portuguese radio.

Coehlo said that if SAirGroup, which controls Swissair, dropped the deal Portugal's government would seek compensation, although he did not say how much.

"An accord has been signed and those who do not honour accords are penalised," he explained.

Speaking at a news conference in Zurich Tuesday, SAirGroup chairman Eric Honegger said he could not rule out the sale of some or all of the company's minority stakes in foreign airlines, but he refused to comment on particular cases.

SAirGroup refused to comment Wednesday on the Portuguese minister's comments.

TAP's new chief executive Fernando Pinto said that the possible collapse of the Swiss alliance would not threaten his plans for a sweeping restructuring of the troubled airline.

swissinfo with agencies


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