The difficult rescue of Air Austral before the 2022 presidential election

One of the great fears of the authorities – that an airline flying the French flag will not survive the health crisis – can no longer be ruled out. Air Austral, the small company from Reunion Island, has been struggling for several months. The company, 97.8% owned by the semi-public company Sematra, itself 73.5% owned by the Reunion region, called on the State for help and asked for an injection of public funds. , as was the case for its competitors Air France and Corsair.

The interministerial committee for industrial restructuring, the Bercy unit responsible for helping to rescue companies in difficulty, is in the process of maneuvering, under the close supervision of the Commercial Court of Saint-Denis (Reunion). Even if the committee specializing in crises saw others, it would have been well without such an explosive politically, four months before the presidential election. With nearly 900 employees, Air Austral, pride of Reunion, is the second largest employer in the region. “We are determined, elected on all sides, to lead the fight to preserve this company”, had insisted, on November 14, Huguette Bello, the president of the region.

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Initially, the company had mandated the Rothschild & Co bank in order to constitute a round table of investors making it possible to bring together around one hundred million euros. However, this research was unsuccessful, especially since the appearance of the Omicron variant has made the prospect of a sustained resumption of traffic in the Indian Ocean fade away. Since then, the government has been campaigning for a plan consisting in first merging Air Austral and Corsair, the company which mainly serves the overseas departments and in particular the West Indies, to then recapitalize the whole.

Need for recapitalization

“Consolidation is a privileged option, because the link between Reunion Island and the mainland is in excess of seats. We want to ensure that Air Austral comes out of the crisis stronger ”, we insist at Bercy. An audit carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers, at the request of the State, made it possible to assess the synergies of such a merger at more than 70 million euros over four years, according to our information. According to this study, the need for recapitalization of a Corsair-Air Austral unit would amount to 180 million euros. The State should provide most of it, the objective being that the shareholders of Corsair bring 30 million to 50 million euros.

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The difficult rescue of Air Austral before the 2022 presidential election

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