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Sabena faces cash crisis

Sabena chief, Christoph Mueller, says a restructuring programme is necessary to secure the company's future

(Keystone Archive)

Sabena's chief executive, Christoph Mueller, has warned that the loss-making Belgian national airline will run out of cash by the end of this month. In an internal letter, he said a restructuring programme needed to be implemented urgently to avert a cash crisis.

Sabena is jointly owned by the Belgian government, which has a 51 per cent stake, and the Swiss airline holding company, SAirGroup.

In a letter addressed to colleagues, Mueller said the company's proposed Blue Sky restructuring programme was the "strict minimum" needed for survival and to secure the airline's long-term future.

His conclusion was based on an outside audit by the United States's International Pilot Services Corporation. "The auditors are confirming that Sabena is now confronted with significant losses for 2000 and 2001, and that the company will run out of cash by the end of February if nothing is done," Mueller said in the letter.

The Belgian government and SAirGroup are to meet on Monday to decide what action to take.

The Blue Sky restructuring programme calls for savings of SFr528 million ($326.7 million) and a SFr233 million re-capitalisation by the airline's two shareholders.

Sabena's future is inextricably linked to that of the SAirGroup, which is also in the process of re-examining its activities following a disappointing performance from its airline business.

SAirGroup announced just over a week ago that it would invest no more money in buying or increasing stakes in other airlines, and that it would only invest further in Sabena if unions approved the restructuring programme.

swissinfo with agencies


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