Paris, EU near deal on Air France bailout conditions: report

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FILE PHOTO: The first Air France airliner Airbus A350 prepares to take off after a ceremony at the aircraft builder's headquarters in Colomiers near Toulouse, France

PARIS (Reuters) – The French government and the European Union’s executive are close to an agreement on the terms of a bailout for Air France, which like other carriers has been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, Le Monde reported.

The expected deal would see Air France give up fewer airport flight slots at its Paris base than initially sought by the European Commission, notably at Orly airport, the newspaper said in a report published late on Friday.

Contacted by Reuters, a spokeswoman for the Commission said it was in contact with the French authorities. “We cannot prejudge the timing or outcome of these contacts,” she added.

Air France and France’s economy ministry declined to comment.

The Air France-KLM group recorded a 7.1 billion euro ($8.38 billion) net loss for last year.

It received 10.4 billion euros in loans and guarantees from France and the Netherlands and has been negotiating a state-backed recapitalisation, with EU regulators seeking airport slot concessions at Paris-Orly and Amsterdam-Schiphol.

Under a plan submitted to Brussels, France would swap a 4 billion euro shareholder loan granted to Air France-KLM last year for hybrid debt or perpetuities, sources have said.

Air France and its unions had baulked at the EU’s demands for slot concessions at Orly.

Slot concessions for KLM had yet to be agreed by the Commission and the Dutch government, Le Monde and fellow French daily Les Echos said.

($1 = 0.8477 euros)

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz, Francesco Guarascio, Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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