The Belgian government has agreed a plan to help ground handler Aviapartner through the coronavirus crisis, including a €25 million lifeline.
The news comes as Aviapartner is left as the only remaining handler for passenger flights at Brussels Airport, just as flights start up again. Last week the other company active at Zaventem, Swissport, said it was stopping trading with the loss of XX jobs.
The government’s fear is that with Aviapartner as the only handler, the airport could be thrown into chaos if it succumbs to its own financial problems.
The plan first has to overcome a number of possible hurdles.
Tomorrow sees the first of those, when the plan will be presented to the Federal Holding and Investment Company (SPFI). They have the job of approving the plan and putting it into action.
From what little is known of the details at present, the loan to Aviapartner has the condition that the SPFI can later convert the debt into shares.
The SPFI holds some €1.6 billion in government investments, with the single largest portion apart from “others” – €407 million or 25% in aviation and airports. The portion devoted to Others (€512 million and 32%) includes the government’s holding in Bpost and the National Lottery, as well as BNP Paribas bank (2018 figures).
The plan then also requires the approval of the European Commission’s competition authority, just like any other instance of state aid to industry.
Both authorities will need to be convinced that the fate of not only the company but the airport itself could be at stake unless Aviapartner is bailed out at this critical moment.
Finally, the plan – amended if necessary – will be put to Aviapartner. The way things stand at present, it is difficult to imagine they might refuse.
The Brussels Times