Dutch investment group Imca last week withdrew its offer to buy Air Lib after failing to get sufficiently competitive prices on the purchase of 29 Airbus A320s, sealing the fate of France's second airline.

Jean-Charles Corbet, Air Lib's chief executive, was last week required to declare to the Commercial Court of Créteil that his company cannot pay €120 million ($129 million) of debt to the French tax, employment and aviation authorities or repay a €30.5 million government loan, which is being investigated by European Commission anti-trust officials.

Imca's decision to pull out coincided with the expiry of Air Lib's operating licence at midnight on 5 February, grounding its flights. French transport minister Gilles de Robien says he "deplores the collapse of the negotiations despite all the efforts of the past month", adding that "we did everything in our power to help the Dutch investor".

Dominique Bussereau, secretary of state for transport, places the blame for the failure squarely on Imca, saying "the government waited all night, ready to sign, but Imca did not do so because it could not reach a price agreement with Airbus."

Source: Flight International