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Swissair and Belgium resolve dispute over Sabena

Swissair has reached an agreement with Belgium to avoid having to increase its stake in Sabena

(Keystone Archive)

The troubled Swissair Group and the Belgian government have agreed to jointly invest SFr650 million into the loss-making Belgian carrier, Sabena. By accepting to pay 60 per cent of the amount, Swissair Group has been liberated from its obligation to increase its stake in the Belgian airline.

The agreement reached on Tuesday cancels Swissair Group's January commitment to up its stake in Sabena to 85 per cent. However, Swissair Group must take over nine Airbus A319/A320 ordered by Sabena, which are being delivered next year.

The new deal allows the Swiss company to maintain its 49.5 per cent stake in the Belgian airline. In addition, both Swissair Group and the Belgian government have been liberated from any further obligation to invest in Sabena.

Mario Corti, head of the Swissair Group, expressed his satisfaction at having reached a deal with the Belgian authorities and Sabena.

"I am pleased that we have managed to find an agreement with the Belgian government regarding Sabena", Corti said in a company statement. He added that "the decision gives Swissair Group's shareholders and creditors a clear picture of the company's financial obligations."

Corti also said that the agreement lifted the uncertainty caused by the lawsuits which were filed by the Belgian government and Sabena, after Swissair backed away from its January promise to invest more.

Alleging a breach of contract, Belgium had asked Swissair Group to invest SFr800 million ($451 million) in Sabena over the coming two years. The Belgian authorities had also sought SFr536 million ($236 million) in damages.

Following Tuesday's deal, the SFr650 million payment to Sabena will be dealt out in four instalments over the next two years.

"This mode of payment will reduce pressure on our cashflow and allow us to stabilise our financial situation", Corti said.

The Belgian minister for telecommunications and state-owned companies, Rik Daems, also expressed his satisfaction over Tuesday's deal.

"I am pleased that we have managed to seal this agreement, which gives Sabena sufficient funding to carry out its business plan over the coming four years", Daems said.

swissinfo with agencies

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