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Etihad in Talks to Buy Stake in AirFrance-KLM: Report

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Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad Airways is in talks to buy a stake in struggling Franco-Dutch airline Air France-KLM, Netherlands newspaper De Telegraf reported on Wednesday.

“Etihad is still staking out Air France-KLM,” the daily said, adding that “the course is set” for a buy-in.

A KLM spokesman told the paper that collaboration talks were still underway, but that the airline would not comment on specifics.

The report sent Air France-KLM shares sharply higher in late morning trade to EUR3.48 on the Paris stock exchange, a 3.14-per cent gain in a market up by 1.81 per cent overall.

Qatar Airways is also interested in taking a stake in Air-France-KLM, but for now has been kept on the sidelines, De Telegraf said.

Etihad has been on a buying spree, increasing its stake in Air Berlin to almost 30 per cent. It also owns 40 per cent of Air Seychelles and is looking to boost its stake in Virgin Australia to 10 per cent.

Yann Derocles, airline sector analyst from Oddo Securities, said that Etihad’s stake in Air Berlin would give Air France-KLM unprecedented access to Germany and eastern Europe and improve margins on its medium haul business.

Derocles noted that Air France-KLM has historically kept Gulf companies at arm’s length and the fact it would consider a tie-up with Etihad marked a significant change of attitude.

Struggling Air France-KLM has launched a major cost-saving programme after posting a loss of EUR809.0 million (US$1.0 billion) for 2011 and a first quarter net loss in 2012 of EUR368.0 million.

(Source: AFP)