Juan José Hidalgo breaks his silence to send a strong message to friends and strangers: the sale of Air Europa is far from closed and it will not take place if he does not give his approval. In a statement to ABC, the veteran businessman sticks out for the recovery of the airline and stresses that the “only commitment he has the company with SEPI until 2026 is to pay the interest on the loan».
His words come after the Government has left the door open to use one of the two loans it granted to the airline at the end of 2020, valued together at 475 million euros, to acquire a majority stake in the company. .
SEPI’s argument is that one of the two credits -valued at 240 million- is participative and, therefore, the debt could be canceled if it becomes the delivery of shares. “To carry out this entire operation they would have to talk to me first, and no one from the Government has approached me to discuss this matter,” Hidalgo highlights, who acknowledges that the company will also have to deal with loans guaranteed by the National Credit Institute (ICO) in the future.
In addition to the State and Air Europa, Iberia is also present in this complex negotiation, which would be the one that would address the purchase of its historic rival. The former flag carrier and Air Europa gave themselves until the end of January to approach an agreement together. “At the moment, I have not received your call and nothing is closed,” explains the founder of the Globalia group, who recalls that the initial agreement “broke” and now both parties would have to negotiate a different one.
The businessman, in addition, sends an internal message by warning that his word is “the one that counts” for being the president of the company and that “perhaps some people are providing information without being so informed”, suggesting that there is a parallel negotiation that does not have your consent. In his words, the number one option for Air Europa today is to continue alone.
Hidalgo assures ABC that the airline, which had to be rescued by the State last year due to the coronavirus crisis, “already earns more than it spends” and is “in full recovery.” And he adds that there is “not a single overdue or enforceable debt” of the company with the Government. The truth is Air Europa exceeded 5 million passengers next year, thus improving its 2020 figures by almost 20%. Despite this, the result is still 60% below that recorded before the pandemic.
The winks of the Government
Hidalgo is especially hurt by the fact that all the information released in recent days has coincided with the celebration of a fair as important for the tourism sector as Fitur. It also categorically rejects that they are talking about percentages to distribute the airline, as the economic vice president herself, Nadia Calviño, has dropped.
In an interview granted to ‘Bloomberg’, Calviño left the door open when asked if the State would take a 40% stake in the Globalia group airline. And it is not the only wink that the Government has made regarding a possible nationalization of Air Europa.
The Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Reyes Maroto, insisted last week that Air Europa is a “strategic” company and therefore its viability “is guaranteed by the Government.” Regarding a possible alliance with Iberia, Maroto recalled that both companies have a great weight in international traffic in Spain and therefore are key to maintaining the country’s connectivity.
When the initial agreement between the two companies broke down, just over a month ago, the Ministry of the Economy rushed to launch a similar message in which it also stressed that it was open to “different options”. Today, this bunch of options is still open, but the president of Air Europa makes it clear that regardless of the agreement reached by Iberia and the Government, they must have their approval to move forward.