Air France-KLM considers capital options as US bookings increase

An Air France Airbus A350 prepares for take off from Colomiers, France, September 27, 2019.

Régis Duvignau / Reuters

Air France-KLM plans to raise new funds soon after completing a stock issue earlier this year, supported by a positive trend in bookings since the United States announced a reopening to Europeans, its company said on Wednesday. General manager.

“We asked our shareholders at our annual general meeting in May for flexibility on how we might consider recapitalizing the group,” CEO Ben Smith told reporters.

“We’re looking at some of the options right now, what might be some of the tools to be able to do just that. We plan to proceed with another recapitalization in the coming months, ”he said during an aircraft delivery ceremony.

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When asked if he had seen a fundraiser before the end of the year, he replied, “I can’t give you full confirmation; we would like to make sure we do it ASAP.

In April, Smith said Air France-KLM could raise more capital to strengthen its balance sheet and reduce debt as travel begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Discussions about the recovery gathered pace earlier this month when the United States announced it would reopen to travelers from 33 countries, including most of Europe, that are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Asked to what extent this caused an immediate increase in transatlantic bookings on Wednesday, Smith said: “a lot”.

The North Atlantic is the most lucrative market for Europe’s largest long-haul carriers, but business travel, which accounts for the lion’s share of profits, has been hit hard by the crisis.

Air France-KLM expects to benefit from pent-up demand from large corporate customers and others eager to travel to reconnect with customers. But it’s too early to say to what extent that will translate into a sustained recovery, Smith said.

He said Air France-KLM was less exposed than rivals British Airways and Lufthansa to business travel trends, as up to half of its premium cabins were filled with people traveling for pleasure even before the pandemic.

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Paris is considered a prime destination for wealthy tourists.

The group’s French network manager, Anne Rigail, said earlier Wednesday that Air France was starting to see some recovery in business travel on domestic routes.

“We are seeing signs especially on domestic roads, with conferences taking place especially in the south of France, but we are still very far from 2019 levels at this point,” Rigail told reporters during the delivery. from the A220.

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