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Sell-off of Swissair "unthinkable" says carrier chief

Honegger says Swissair will remain at the heart of SAirGroup's activities

(Keystone)

The president of Swissair, Eric Honegger, has said that the idea of selling off the airline is "absolutely unthinkable". The announcement comes following a recent shake up at Swissair's parent-company, SAirGroup.

In January, Honegger took over as the interim chief executive of SAirGroup after Philippe Bruggisser stepped down.

SAirGroup, which has called a halt to all new investment and acquisitions in the airline industry, underwent a major shake up following Bruggisser's departure.

On Saturday, Honegger told the Swiss media that SAirGroup rests on two pillars: its airline activities and its participation in other sectors. "The synergy between the two is enormous," he said, "and would be unthinkable without the presence of an airline".

He added that Swissair would remain at the heart of SAirGroup's activities.

"A minority participation by a foreign partner may be foreseeable, in terms of an alliance, but SAirGroup will never let go of its majority stake in Swissair," said the group's chief.

Honegger confirmed that at present, SAirGroup is in "regular contact" with member carriers of the "oneworld alliance" which includes British Airways and American Airlines.

However, he added that "oneworld is not the only option" and that SAirGroup is also talking to Lufthansa's Star Alliance, Air France and Delta Airlines.

Experts say SAirGroup is heavily in debt due to its expansion strategy, which cost the group an estimated $3 billion (SFr5 billion).

Under Bruggisser's direction, SAirGroup had been trying to improve its market position in recent years with a series of alliances with other airlines, and by acquiring stakes in loss-making carriers such as Belgium's Sabena.

On Saturday, Honegger reaffirmed that SAirGroup "is not ready to make any concessions to save Sabena".

SAirGroup holds a 49.5 per cent stake in the beleaguered Belgian airline.

Earlier in the week, Sabena's two shareholders - SAirGroup and the Belgian government - postponed their decision on a proposed re-capitalisation plan to save the airline until February 23.

swissinfo with agencies


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