Aigle Azur files for bankruptcy, Air France, IAG expected to bid

Anna Zvereva

After an eventful week, Aigle Azur filed for bankruptcy on September 2, 2019. The company is now waiting for potential buyouts, with the deadline for bids set to next week. Air France and IAG may compete to take over the second biggest French airline to obtain its precious slots.

Now that it has filed for bankruptcy, Aigle Azur is awaiting for buyouts. The deadline for the submission of bids has been set by the Commercial Court of Creteil to September 8, 2019, reports TourMag. Such a short term benefits the airline, which does not have the finances to operate much longer. Aigle Azur employs around 1,150 people and operates 11 Airbus aircraft (nine A320, and two leased A330). The main selling point of Aigle Azur is the 10,000 slots it has in Paris Orly (ORY), the second biggest French airport after Charles de Gaulle.

“Air France has expressed interest in Aigle Azur and would be ready to make a takeover bid,” Martin Surzur, president of Aigle Azur office at the National Union of airline pilots (SNPL) told Le Monde. The French flag carrier could use the slots to develop the network of its low-cost subsidiary also based in Orly, Transavia.

But another major carrier might also be on the case. IAG, which according to Surzur already tried to acquire the slots a couple of weeks ago, could come with another offer. The group would be able to settle its own low-cost carrier, Vueling, in Orly, thus challenging Transavia in its own backyard.

Two actors involved in the French air transport industry could also present an offer. According to La Tribune, Lionel Guérin, Deputy General Manager of Air France and Philippe Micouleau, former CEO of HOP!, could conjointly attempt to take over Aigle Azur. Their project would aim at refocusing the activity of the airline towards its core business, Algeria and the Maghreb, and possibly put an end to the current CEO Frantz Yvelin’s long-haul strategy started in 2018.

On August 26, 2019, Frantz Yvelin was evicted, and replaced by Gérard Houa (19% shareholder in Aigle Azur) and Philippe Bohn (co-founder of Aigle Azur and former general manager of Air Senegal). Their act was to put an end to “strategic mistakes of the last two years”. 

But after only two days of a putsch, Yvelin was able to claim back his position, with the support of the Commercial Court. Hélène Bourbouloux was appointed by the court as an interim administrator. The return of Frantz Yvelin, who did not attend the last works council meeting, could be of extremely short term. Sources say he could depart from the airline before the end of the week.

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