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Air France-KLM eyes capital options, U.S. bookings surge By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO. The Air France Airbus A350 is ready to fly after an official ceremony held at Colomiers, near Toulouse on September 27, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) – Air France-KLM is looking at raising fresh funds soon after completing a share issue earlier this year, bolstered by a positive trend in bookings since the United States announced a reopening to Europeans, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

Ben Smith, CEO of Air France-KLM told reporters that he requested flexibility from shareholders at the May annual general meeting to see how he could recapitalize the group.

“We’re currently looking at all options and evaluating the potential tools to achieve this goal. He stated that we expect to do another recapitalization in the next few months.”

When asked if he expected any fund-raising to occur before the end the year, Smith replied: “I cannot give you full confirmation. We would like it to happen as quickly as possible.”

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Smith indicated that Air France-KLM might raise additional capital in April to boost its balance sheet, reduce its debt and help with travel recovery from the COVID-19 epidemic.

When the United States declared that they would allow travel from 33 countries (including most European ones) to resume, talk of recovery was intensified earlier in April.

Smith answered Wednesday’s question about whether this has triggered an increase in transatlantic travel bookings.

While the North Atlantic market is the most profitable for Europe’s longest-haul carriers, business travel has suffered the worst effects of the crisis.

Air France-KLM anticipates that it will benefit from the pent-up demand of large corporate clients and other travelers who are eager to travel for business contacts. Smith acknowledged that this is not yet a reliable indicator of a sustainable recovery.

Smith said Air France KLM was more vulnerable than British Airways or Lufthansa due to the fact that up to half its premium cabins were occupied by people who had traveled for pleasure before the pandemic.

Paris is a popular destination for wealthy tourists.

Anne Rigail (head of France’s network), stated earlier Wednesday that Air France is beginning to experience a recovery in domestic business travel.

Rigail stated that there were some encouraging signs on domestic routes. However, she said to reporters during the A220 distribution, “We are still far from 2019-levels at this stage.”

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