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SAir welcomes sale of Air Liberté

The SAir Group, owner of Swissair, has welcomed the takeover by one of its partners of British Airways' stake in the loss-making French domestic airline, Air Liberté.

Taitbout Antibes bought the shareholding for SFr125 million.

Taitbout is a subsidiary of Marine Wendel and Group Alpha which, together with the SAir Group, own the French airline AOM and also possess a stake in another French domestic airline, Air Littoral.

SAir and its French partners see a large potential for synergies between the three French airlines, AOM, Air Littoral and Air Liberté. The Swiss group said they wanted to make best use of the possibilities for sharing fleets and networks within the framework of the Qualiflyer Group alliance.

Alain Blanc-Brude, President of Group Alpha is optimistic.

"Together with our existing business, AOM and Air Littoral, the acquisition of Air Liberté creates the possibility for us to build a strong second force in the French airline market to the benefit of our customers, enployees and shareholders."

Lord Marshall, Chairman of British Airways, said it had been disappointed in the performance of Air Liberté.

"Since British Airways' initial entry into the French domestic airline market in 1993, competition has intensified significantly, both in the air, and on the ground from high speed trains," he said. "Despite the great efforts of the management team and employees, Air Liberté has not always delivered an adequate return."

However SAir Group expressed confidence that the move was a good one.

"The French air transport market is one of the largest in Europe and is constantly growing," it said in a statement.

SAir Group and its two French partners now want to enhance the standing of the Paris-Orly hub, making it a significant centre for air travel and further underpinning the Qualiflyer Group's multi-hub strategy.

by Tom O'Brien

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