The Netherlands’ Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra announced on February 26 that it had bought 12.68% of Air France-KLM.
Hoekstra said the Netherlands plans to match the 14.3% share owned by the French state to ensure “direct involvement” in shaping the future of a company of strategic significance to the national economy.
“The position of Schiphol (airport) and KLM are of great importance to the Dutch economy and employment,’ Hoekstra told the press, adding that “it involves thousands of direct and indirect jobs.”
Schiphol is Europe’s third busiest airport after London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle.
The cost of the Dutch investment amounted to €680 million and the government plans to spend an additional €70 million.
The row between France and the Netherlands comes amid reports that the future of KLM’s chief executive, Pieter Elbers, was called into question. The Holding company’s CEO, Ben Smith, wanted to tighten the relationship between the two companies.
Despite a long tradition of French government intervention into the management of Air France, the French budget minister, Gérald Darmanin, called on both states to remain on the sidelines.
The two national air carriers merged in 2004, although they operate under their own banners. The Dutch government feels that the merger has not benefitted KLM, which has registered better economic results than Air France.