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Dutch government increases share in Air France-KLM, nearly matching French stake

Philippe Wojazer, REUTERS file photo | The Air France-KLM company logo

The Dutch government increased its stake in Air France-KLM to 14 percent on Wednesday, just short of the 14.3 percent held by France. The move comes a day after the Dutch surprised Paris by purchasing a 12.68 percent share in the alliance.

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"The Dutch state has bought a 14 percent stake in Air France-KLM," the government announced in a statement on Wednesday. “The shares package is valued at a total of €744 million,” it said, adding that "buying of Air France-KLM shares has been halted".

The Dutch government already sparked French anger a day earlier when it announced the acquisition of a 12.68 percent share in the alliance without first informing Paris. France, which holds a 14.3 percent stake in Air France-KLM, appeared stunned by the move and demanded Amsterdam "clarify" its intent.

"The government was not informed of this decision nor its implementation ...," French President Emmanuel Macron said at a press conference in Paris after learning about the first purchase. "It is now up to the Dutch government to clarify its intentions."

While the Netherlands did not own shares in the France-KLM alliance before its first purchase on Tuesday, it did own a 5.92 percent stake in KLM itself.

An anonymous finance ministry source told the AFP news agency that the transaction was viewed by Paris as a hostile move for more control.

"The way this stake was acquired resembles the techniques of a trader instead of a state shareholder – it is both very surprising and unfriendly towards Air France's board and other shareholders," the source said.

Following the initial purchase of a 12.68 percent share, Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said the government ultimately wanted a stake to rival that of France.

"The aim is, eventually, to acquire an interest that almost equals that of the French state," he said on Tuesday.

“With this share purchase, the Dutch cabinet wants to be able to influence the future development of Air France-KLM directly to serve the Dutch public interest."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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