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EU approves French $7.65bn Air France loans

The European Commission on Monday approved French loans worth 7.65 billion dollars (7 billion euros) to help Air France weather the coronavirus pandemic, noting that the aviation giant would otherwise face the risk of bankruptcy.

The funding will “provide urgent liquidity for the company in the context of the Coronavirus outbreak,” the commission said in a statement.

The EU executive has relaxed its state aid rules to help companies during the global health crisis.

Paris plans to lend Air France 3 billion euros directly and to guarantee bank loans for a further 4 billion euros, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced in April.

Commissioner Vice President Margrethe Vestager praised Air France’s “essential” role in repatriating citizens and transporting medical equipment during the pandemic, while welcoming French “green policy choices” for the airline.

“This 7-billion-euro French guarantee and shareholder loan will provide Air France with the liquidity that it urgently needs to withstand the impact of the coronavirus outbreak,” the EU’s top competition official added.

The French government is currently the largest single shareholder of Air France-KLM, with a 14.3 per cent stake.

The Dutch government also has a 14 per cent stake, bought in a surprise operation last year.

The aviation industry has been hit by measures to contain the Coronavirus outbreak, with flights grounded around the world due to international travel restrictions

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