Air France-KLM SWOT: renewed hope, but Air France must perform

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Air France-KLM has consistently lagged its main peers IAG and Lufthansa Group in its ability to generate sustainable levels of profitability.

For 2018, it reported a fall in operating margin as a result of a higher fuel bill and labour strikes at Air France. Labour relations and poor productivity at Air France have been significant contributors to its reporting of consistently lower margins than KLM's.

Newly reached agreements with all main employee groups at Air France give renewed hope that Air France-KLM may become more prosperous under CEO Ben Smith, who took up his appointment in Sep-2018. The Canadian has also attempted to ease cultural tensions between Air France and KLM with a new governance structure for the Franco-Dutch group's senior management. Furthermore, he has announced a simplification of the brands operating under the Air France organisation.

The Dutch government's 25-Feb-2019 announcement that it had acquired a near 13% stake in the group, with the intention of matching the French state's 14%, may bring balance to the shareholder structure, but increases the risk of political interference.

This report considers Air France-KLM's main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

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