EU probes SAS airline over state aid

The European Commission opened an in-depth probe on Wednesday to see if state aid given to Scandinavian Airlines by Sweden and Denmark conformed to EU rules.

EU probes SAS airline over state aid

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), jointly controlled by Sweden, Norway and Denmark, has struggled to cope with the sharp economic slowdown in Europe, racking up losses and needing government help to keep it afloat.

Total aid in the past 10 years has come to about 10 billion kronor ($1.6 billion), the Swedish government said in late 2012 when it expressed strong doubts about putting in any more money.

The European Commission (EC) noted that SAS had raised money by selling shares in 2009 and 2010 and there was no issue to address in those instances.

But in 2012, the airline launched a restructuring programme on the back of a revolving credit facility worth about 400 million euros, which the EC said may not have been based on market conditions.

The way the RCF was put together also meant that “public shareholders increased their exposure to SAS…(and) the banks significantly reduced theirs,” the EC said in a statement.

In addition, there were also “concerns regarding the reliability of the business plan on the basis of which the public shareholders decided to participate in the new RCF,” it added.

The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties an opportunity to comment. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

AFP/The Local/nr

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‘We agree to disagree’: Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

By lunchtime on Friday, talks between the Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still stuck on "difficult issues".

'We agree to disagree': Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

“We agree that we disagree,” Roger Klokset, from the Norwegian pilots’ union, said at lunchtime outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, where talks are taking place. “We are still working to find a solution, and so long as there is still some point in continuing negotiations, we will do that.” 

Mats Ruland, a mediator for the Norwegian government, said that there were “still several difficult issues which need to be solved”. 

At 1pm on Friday, the two sides took a short break from the talks for lunch, after starting at 9am. On Thursday, they negotiated for 15 hours, breaking off at 1am on Friday morning. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Marianne Hernæs, SAS’s negotiator on Friday told journalists she was tired after sitting at the negotiating table long into the night. 

“We need to find a model where we can meet in the middle and which can ensure that we pull in the income that we are dependent on,” she said. 

Klokset said that there was “a good atmosphere” in the talks, and that the unions were sticking together to represent their members.

“I think we’ve been extremely flexible so far. It’s ‘out of this world’,’ said Henrik Thyregod, with the Danish pilots’ union. 

“This could have been solved back in December if SAS had not made unreasonable demands on the pilots,” Klokset added. 

The strike, which is now in its 12th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers.