SAS Finally Sells Major Spanair Stake

Jan 30, 2009
Darren Shannon darren_shannon@aviationweek.com

SAS Group has completed the sale of an 80.1% stake in its Spanish subsidiary Spanair for a nominal price of EUR1 (US$1.28), although the total book loss to the financially troubled Scandinavian airline group is valued at almost SEK4.9 billion, or roughly US$580 million.

The definitive agreement was reached with a group of investors from the Spanish region of Catalonia, led by the Consorci de Turisme de Barcelona and Catalana d'Inciatives, SAS said in a Jan. 30 release.

Under the deal, SAS will retain a 19.9% stake in Spanair, and as an "industrial partner" will assist in implementing a new strategic plan. This plan "aims at further strengthening Spanair's position in Spain and as the leading carrier in the Barcelona region."

Spanair is currently headquartered on the island of Majorca with hubs in Barcelona and Madrid.

The sale, although nominally for EUR1, will account for almost SEK4.9 billion of losses in SAS's fiscal 2008 financial results. Of this, SEK1.6 billion is from lost goodwill in Spanair accounted for in the first three quarter of fiscal 2008, SEK1.3 billion in lost earnings before tax, SEK914 million in restructuring costs, SEK712 million in lost capital, and SEK273 million in a write-down of deferred tax assets.

Almost SEK2.2 billion of this will be accounted for in SAS's fourth quarter results, including the entire capital loss.

SAS has also committed EUR50 million in potential funding for the new Spanair, and confirmed that it will pay EUR18 million worth of Spanair's loans.

The purchase agreement also allows SAS to convert EUR20 million of its debt into Spanair equity, and retains EUR99 million of Spanair's debt to its previous owner.

"We are confident that we have now secured a platform for Spanair as a Spanish-based company with Spanish majority owners," said SAS Group President and CEO Mats Jansson. "Due to unprecedented market conditions, the transaction will have a significant negative impact on the [fourth quarter] earnings of the SAS Group, but we believe that the new owners will secure the future of Spanair and develop the company to the benefit of Barcelona and the Barcelona region. We will retain an interest in Spanair as a minority shareholder to support its strategic plan."

Separately, SAS confirmed today the completion of a management buyout of its 47.2% stake in Latvian carrier AirBaltic. That sale, which SAS in December said was "in line with our strategy not to maintain minority holdings in our airlines," raised about SEK175 million in capital for the Scandinavian airline group.

On Jan. 14 SAS also announced it had divested its holding in Mallorca-based carrier AeBal, which operated five Boeing 717s for Spanair. SAS posted a net loss of SEK200 million because of that divestment.

Photo: Marek Slusarczyk via Wkipedia

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