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Debt-laden Air France-KLM inks deal with cargo giant CMA CGM

Air France-KLM said Wednesday that it had signed a freight alliance with shipping giant CMA CGM, which will take a minority stake in the cash-strapped airline as it emerges from Covid losses. CMA CGM, based in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, has seen its profits soar during the pandemic as lockdowns wreaked havoc on global supply chains, prompting it to launch its own air freight service last year. It recorded earnings of $17.9 billion last year thanks to high freight rates while Air France-KLM has racked up losses of 11 billion euros ($11.6 billion) over the past two years. The airline has some 7.7 billion euros of debt despite massive bailouts by the French and Dutch governments, which own minority stakes in the former flag carriers that merged in 2004. Financial details were not disclosed but CMA CGM said it would take up to nine percent of Air France-KLM’s stock, possibly at an upcoming capital increase round aiming to raise up to four billion euros. “This partnership is fully in line with CMA CGM’s strategy and its ambition to become a leader in integrated logistics,” its chief executive Rodolphe Saade said in a statement. Together the companies will operate 10 freight aircraft and a further 12 are on order, and Air France-KLM also provides cargo shipping as part of its regular passenger flights. Freight revenues jumped 40 percent at the airline last year to reach 3.6 billion euros, outstripping the recovery for its passenger business, which generated sales of 8.7 billion euros — though it still posted a net loss of 3.3 billion euros. Air France-KLM chief Benjamin Smith called it a “landmark” deal for stepping up its cargo operations. “I am also extremely pleased that this commercial partnership with CMA CGM has resulted in their decision to invest directly in the Air France-KLM group, demonstrating a strong testimony of their belief in the future success of our group,” he said.

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