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Sabena joins legal battle against Swissair

Relations between Swissair and Sabena cool further


Belgium's loss-making airline, Sabena, has launched its own legal action against the Swissair Group over the aviation conglomerate's intention not to boost its minority stake in Sabena to 85 per cent.

The move comes after the Belgian government - which owns 50.5 per cent of Sabena - announced on Tuesday that it would sue Swissair for the same reason. Swissair currently holds 49.5 per cent of the shares in the Belgian airline and is trying to free itself from a commitment to increase its stake.

Sabena spokesman, Wilfred Remans, said the airline had decided to take legal action against Swissair to force it to uphold its "formal commitments" to help finance Sabena's fleet renewal and to "help find a solution" for the ordering of four A430 planes.

The commitments date from November 1997 and December 2000 respectively, Remans said.

"It concerns a demand of about €500 million (SFr760 million)," Remans said, adding that this demand comes on top of the €529 million (SFr804 million) already demanded by the Belgian government from Swissair in the form of a loan or credit line.

In a statement on Wednesday, Swissair Group said it was "disappointed that the Belgian government has chosen to focus on litigation and walk away from the negotiating table".

On Tuesday, Belgium's public enterprise minister, Rik Daems, told a news conference that his government would file a series of suits against Swissair in both Brussels and Zurich to try and force the Swiss company to live up to its promises.

Daems confirmed an initial court hearing had already been scheduled for August 2.

Belgium's decision to press ahead with legal action comes after it rejected a proposal from Swissair on Monday for a final cash injection for Sabena. Under Swissair's plan, the two stakeholders would inject a combined €275 million into Sabena.

Swissair, which has already pumped €150 million into Sabena this year, also planned to provide an extra €30 million through a subordinated loan.

But Daems on Tuesday rejected the offer as "totally insufficient".

swissinfo with agencies


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