France fumes as Dutch government takes stake in Air France-KLM


The Dutch government has snapped up a near-13% stake in Air France-KLM, prompting the French government to accuse The Hague of acting like an “unfriendly” corporate raider. A minor diplomatic row appeared to be building after the Dutch finance minister said the Netherlands had spent €680m (£581m) on a 12.7% stake in the company, formed in 2004 via the merger of the two flag-carrier airlines.

The Netherlands said it was prepared to increase its stake to 14% to ensure it can bring Dutch influence to bear on the company, putting it on an even keel with France, which also holds about 14%. “Buying this stake ensures we have a seat at the table,” said the Dutch finance minister, Wopke Hoekstra, indicating a desire to have more influence over Dutch economic interests and jobs. French officials said they were upset that they had not been informed in advance of the Dutch stake-building plans.

“The way that the stake was built up was more like that done by a corporate raider, rather than a state shareholder,” a French finance ministry official told Reuters. The official added that the purchase was an “unfriendly, surprising move that is extremely detrimental to Air France-KLM financially”. The source declined to say whether the French state would raise its stake in reaction to the Dutch move but said Paris was going to ask France’s financial markets watchdog to prove heavy trading in the airline’s shares prior to the Dutch government’s announcement.

Shares in Air France-KLM fell by nearly 10% on Wednesday after the disclosure of the investment by the Netherlands, prompting the French official to point out that Dutch taxpayers have already seen their investment plummet by about €70m.(theguardian)…[+]