This is turning into some real drama, my goodness.
Yesterday it was announced that the Dutch government bought a 12.68% stake in Air France-KLM for 680 million EUR. They expressed their desire to increase that stake even further, to match France’s 14.3% stake in the company.
Well, further acquisition didn’t take long, and as of this evening the Dutch government owns a 14% stake in Air France-KLM (for a total of 744 million EUR), meaning they’re just 0.3% short of France’s investment in the company.
Yesterday I explained in detail why this is going on, so I won’t fully rehash that here. Instead I’ll just summarize it by saying that Air France-KLM’s new CEO wants Air France and KLM to work more closely together. KLM isn’t in favor of that, and now this is becoming a national issue, rather than just an airline issue.
It’s not entirely clear to me what the Dutch’s government’s motivation is directly, other than a bit of flexing. It’s not like France or the Netherlands are majority shareholders, so it’s not apparent to me what the difference is between a 13% stake and a 14% stake, other than feeling “equal” (though I get how feeling equal might go a long way in this situation).
Meanwhile French president Emmanuel Macron is calling on the Dutch government to explain their actions here. Beyond their apparent interest in acquiring these shares, they want an explanation of why they went about it the way they did, without any sort of discussions. France’s Ministry of Economy said (using Google Translate here) “the way this position was acquired is reminiscent of trader rather than state shareholder techniques, it is both very surprising and unfriendly.”
For now we’ll have to mark this as “developing,” but suffice to say that this is getting quite messy, and is increasingly transforming from an airline issue to a government issue. I’m curious to see if the Dutch or French government tries to increase their stake in the company next.
(Tip of the hat to @thomas199023)