Air Transport World

Sabena gains strength in privatization.

Sabena gains strength in privatization Brussels--Sabena has undergone many changes in recent years and its transformation from a government-owned money-losing airline to a profitable company largely in the hands of private interests should soon be completed. The Belgian flag carrier has been in the black for the past three years (1985 estimated net profit was U.S.$6.3 million) after incurring massive losses from 1957 to 1982. The Belgian government's holding in Sabena has been reduced from 98% to 53% and this will be cut to 25% if the recommendations of Carlos van Rafelghem, chairman and president, are followed.

It is largely due to van Rafelghem that Sabena today is in excellent health (ATW, 7/80). When the government seconded him from a senior post in the Ministry of Finance in 1978 he found a company beset with problems, including a governmental decision to stop subsidizing the airline looming on the horizon. The only solution was a massive austerity program notwithstanding the bitter opposition of Sabena's strong unions to cuts in personnel and salaries. The unions were made to understand by van Rafelghem that the end of the subsidy would mean the end of the company, dating back to 1923, if they did not accept these measures. But cost cutting was not the entire answer--new financing had to be found and van Rafelghem convinced Belgian bankers and industrialists that a revitalized Sabena promised to be a good investment. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.