France calls out imbalance between Air France and KLM

The Netherlands has created an imbalance in the governance of Air France-KLM, a French government representative said, signaling a power struggle between the carrier’s two biggest shareholders remains unresolved.

The Dutch government needs to treat the airline like a normally listed company and choose between holding a stake in the group or in the KLM unit, Martin Vial, head of the French State Shareholdings Agency, said in a briefing Friday.

“We want a normalization of the capital structure,” Vial said in Paris. “In an international company, a unit can’t impose some kind of representation on the supervisory board of the parent.”

The situation “creates an imbalance in governance,” he said.

Relations deteriorated in February when the Netherlands stealthily acquired 14% of the carrier, matching the French stake. The countries subsequently agreed to examine their holdings and the capital structure of Air France and KLM. A working group was set up to examine governance, board representation, the Paris and Amsterdam hubs, strategy and a previous 2003 agreement.

Air France acquired KLM in 2004 but the carriers have been operating semi-independently ever since, based on various agreements to ensure the Dutch government maintained influence in the running of KLM.