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Sabena shareholders rubber stamp rescue plan

The bailout plan will save Sabena from bankruptcy


SAirGroup and the Belgian government have confirmed a bailout package for the ailing Belgian airline, Sabena. The airline's two shareholders agreed on Friday to a capital injection of €250 million (SFr 380 million).

The two shareholders rubber stamped the rescue package, agreed on Thursday, at a meeting in Brussels. Under the deal, SAirGroup, which owns 49.5 per cent of Sabena, will contribute €150 million, and the Belgian government, which has a 50.5 per cent stake, will make up the rest.

SAirGroup's decision followed weeks of tough bargaining with unions and pilots over SFr80 million in cost cuts demanded by the shareholders. Sabena's unions and pilots have now agreed to the cuts, which include 700 job losses.

But, despite the agreement to save Sabena from bankruptcy, SAirGroup has raised doubts about is long-term commitment to the airline.

Writing to employees earlier this week, SAirGroup's chairman and acting chief executive, Eric Honegger, indicated that the group was considering severing its ties to Sabena. "It is possible we will pull out of our commitments in Belgium in the medium-term."

His statement is the clearest expression so far of the Swiss group's intentions. Since ordering a review of its strategy towards Sabena in January, SAirGroup has given contradictory signals about its future involvement in the airline.

The group is currently undergoing a major change of direction following the departure last month of its chief executive, Philippe Bruggisser. It announced that it would from now on be concentrating on its core airline and airline-related businesses.



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