AccorHotels CEO tempers Air France buyout
Following a press release on June 3, 2018, in which French-based AccorHotels, Europe’s biggest hotel operator, acknowledged its interest in acquiring the French government’s stake in Air France, CEO Sébastien Bazin clarified the position of his company.
Accor investors were not enthusiastic about the prospect of an alliance, as shares of the hotel group dropped by 7% on June 4, 2018, following the announcement. Bazin toned down the situation by precising that a buy back of the French state’s 14.3% stake in Air France-KLM was still in an early discussion stage. But the CEO reaffirmed Accor’s interest. ”We would be much stronger if we put our forces together, with many synergies to the key,” he said, adding “Does that require participation? Of course not, that's why we have no idea where this will take us.”
AccorHotels revealed on June 3, 2018, that during discussions over the past years with Air France-KLM on “developing joint digital projects”, the potentiality for the tourism giant to acquire a minority stake in the airline “in order to strengthen the industrial growth project” was addressed. In the context of crisis that Air France is currently facing, AccorHotels confirmed that this eventuality was being discussed again.
The French government seems open to the idea. An alliance between the two groups "is undoubtedly an industrial project that has interesting approaches,” said Delphine Gény-Stephann Secretary of State to the Minister of the Economy and Finance to Boursorama. By acquiring Air France, AccorHotels would be able to better face the increasing threat of its internet-based tourism competitors.
But the priority is now to find a new CEO for Air France, estimated Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne. The company has been headless since the resignation of CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac on May 15, 2018. His departure followed the refusal by the unions of a draft agreement for a multi-year wage increase. At the time, an adviser to Emmanuel Macron told reporters, that the French government had no intention to reduce its 14.3% stake in Air France, but added that it could change in the long run.
And the situation has not improved since. On June 4, 2018, Air France unions promised a “turbulent summer” to the airline, with new strikes expected for the coming weeks if the management board does not agree to a 5.1% salary raise for 2018. Throughout springtime, recurrent strikes already costed an estimated €400 million to the French national carrier.
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