Julian Moxon/PARIS

AOM French Airlines has won European Commission (EC) approval for its takeover of Air Liberté. The move will lead to the creation of a major new French airline when the pair are merged with Air Littoral. The new carrier will be effectively controlled by Swissair parent SAirGroup, which has a 49% stake in both AOM and the Montpellier-based Air Littoral operation.

In approving AOM's purchase of Participations Aéronautiques (PAe), the holding company for Air Liberté and TAT European Airlines, the EC said its decision was straightforward, given that Marine Wendel, the majority owner of AOM, was the previous owner of Participations Aéronautiques.

The Commission says the move "will not substantially affect the conditions of competition between AOM and Air Liberté, since the airlines were already jointly controlled by Marine Wendel". Marine Wendel took control of PAe when its Taitbout Antibes subsidiary purchased British Airways' majority stake in May.

Alexandre Couvelaire, president of AOM and Air Liberté, says the pair, plus Air Littoral , will now be merged and will "provide passengers with a real alternative to the Air France Group". The airline will be launched under a new name in October, with a 100 strong aircraft fleet, 30% of the French domestic market and 30% of slots at Paris/Orly airport. Annual sales of Fr10 billion ($1.4 billion) are foreseen. Trade unions remain opposed to the merger.

- AOM's maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) division, AOM Industries, is being sold to the Tours-based TAT Group. TAT already has a major MRO operation of its own, based at Dinard, held through its LAB operation and subsidiaries including ABP and Snecma joint venture Hydrep.

The deal is at an "advanced stage "and should be completed "within weeks" according to AOM Industries president Jean-Francois Mathoret, who says his company was deemed to be a "poor fit" with SAir's SR Technics MRO operation, with which it could have been merged. TAT's own airline links were severed several years ago.

The merger will create France's third-largest MRO business, with combined sales of almost Fr1 billion. Nîmes-Arles-Camargue airport-based AOM Industries has tripled sales to Fr412 million since 1995. It specialises in McDonnell Douglas DC-10s and MD80s and Boeing 737s, types operated by AOM, although the airline accounts for only 30% of sales. Half of AOM's turnover comes from government contracts.

Source: Flight International