Julian Moxon/paris

The French Government has confirmed the new president of Air France, Jean-Cyril Spinetta, in his post and given him unprecedented control over the running of the airline. It has also asked him to prepare for a "partial" opening of capital to the workforce and outside investors in mid-1998 to raise money for investments, particularly new aircraft.

In a joint letter to Spinetta from the finance and transport ministers, respectively Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Claude Gayssot, clarifying his role, the Government confirms that Air France will "remain in the public sector". It adds, however, that it is now "favourable"to the entry of new partners into the capital of the airline within the framework of alliances with foreign airlines "-which have either been concluded or are still to come". Efforts must also be made to find "realistic and balanced" possibilities for extending workforce shareholdings in the airline.

The Government calls on Spinetta to continue to make the airline more competitive, giving him three years to "catch up" on its principal competitors, "notably European", and to consolidate the domestic network, following the merger with former domestic subsidiary Air Inter, which lost Fr488 million ($81.3 million)in 1996. It adds that Spinetta will be given "complete latitude" to manage the enterprise "according to commercial principles", and promises to adapt institutional arrangements to ease management independence.

The Air France Group expects net profits to exceed Fr1 billion in 1997/98 - a result largely attributed to the actions taken by former president Christian Blanc, who resigned over the Government's refusal to privatise the carrier. Spinetta has already made it clear that he will follow the broad lines taken by Blanc, including support of the deal with the workforce giving them a stake in the airline in exchange for a reduction in salaries.

Source: Flight International