As the Commercial Court of Bobigny was about to put the last nail in XL Airways’ coffin, a new takeover offer emerged filed by Gérard Houa who previously tried to seize Aigle Azur, another bankrupt French carrier. The takeover would come with a €30 million investment.
Enough to take back to the skies?
XL Airways, which has been placed in receivership and suspended its operations from September 30, 2019, may have been given a last-minute lifeline. Just before the hearing of the Commercial Court of Bobigny that was about to pronounce the end of the airline, a takeover bid was placed by Gérard Houa.
To revive the company, Lu Azur would inject €15 million euros of equity and an additional €15 million in the form of a shareholder loan. It would also take back 276 employees (out of a workforce of 570 people) and two out of the four Airbus A330s that the airline had been leasing. But Laurent Magnin, CEO of XL Airways, tempers and argues that “the offer does not seem to provide all the necessary guarantees”. Surrounded by employees, Magnin was welcomed by an ovation when he left the court.
— Arnaud Tousch (@nanotousch) October 2, 2019
This last-minute bid forced the Commercial court to postpone its final decision to October 4, 2019.
It is the second time recently that Houa hits the news: the founder of LU Azur, Houa was a 19% shareholder in the now-defunct Aigle Azur. On August 26, 2019, together with Philippe Bohn, the co-founder of Aigle Azur and former general manager of Air Senegal, they evicted Frantz Yvelin, President of the airline, to allegedly put an end to “strategic mistakes of the last two years”. Houa then filed a takeover offer for Aigle Azur when it was put in bankruptcy, promising to take 90% of the fleet and more than 80% of the workforce for the same amount of investment ‒ about €30 million. To no avail, as the Court specified that a shareholder cannot be a candidate for the recovery of their own company.
The French low-cost carrier XL Airways stopped all flights on September 30, 2019, leaving several hundred passengers stranded. Since then, multiple French airlines including Air France and French Bee have offered preferential rates to any customer in need of repatriation. On September 29, 2019, French Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, blamed XL Airways’ demise on illegal state aid allegedly received by Norwegian Air Shuttle, another low-cost airline. The minister said he would appeal to the European Commission.