While the members of the Air France-KLM Board continue to look for a new leader to take over the group, a more ambitious scenario is under study. According to Les Echos, AccorHotels offered to buy the 14.3% held by the State.
On Sunday evening, AccorHotels attested to the existence of "its reflections" on a possible "minority stake", while underlining that there was "no certainty". When Air France was listed on the stock exchange in 1999, the idea of acquiring an equity stake in Accor had already been mentioned.
Following the example of the rail reform, the government's determination to finance the deficits of emblematic but insufficiently competitive companies is becoming clearer. Since the birth of Air France, the State has always been the dominant shareholder of the airline carrier. If negotiations were to succeed, the company would have no choice but to adapt.
Discussions were initiated to define the form that this operation could take. Three options would be possible:
- a full purchase of the State's shares,
- a partial divestiture,
- a swap in which the State would acquire +3% of the shares of AccorHotels in exchange for its Air France-KLM shares.
In this context, the State as shareholder could expect to recover part of its stake, while the market capitalization of the air carrier has collapsed since the beginning of the year. Moreover, the government would retain control over the future of Air France-KLM, while securing a major national player. In addition, AccorHotels would benefit from shareholder support given the ambitions of its competitor and leading shareholder Jin Jiang (12.3%).
But for the hotel group, the benefit of this alliance is perfectly in line with its diversification strategy. In recent years, the group has continually expanded its offer. On several occasions, AccorHotels has held discussions with Air France-KLM with a view to developing joint digital projects. In this context, a capital alliance with the air carrier would enable it to complete its transformation and go much further in the exchange of data, knowledge of customers and enrichment of the offer.
However, many political, legal, financial and governance obstacles remain to be overcome. AccorHotels will inform the market “if and when necessary”.
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