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Air France refinancing step expected in days, minister says

FILE PHOTO: The first Air France airliner Airbus A350 prepares to take off after a ceremony at the aircraft builder's headquarters in Colomiers near Toulouse, France

PARIS (Reuters) – France and the European Union are close to a deal on a bailout for Air France, which like other carriers has been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday, confirming media reports.

“We are nearing a deal…It is a matter days,” Le Maire told France Info radio, adding there could be concessions to ensure fair competition.

“It’s not about closing lines or cutting jobs. Concessions are being asked to ensure fair competition between Air France and other carriers,” Le Maire said without providing further details.

On Friday French daily Le Monde said the French government and the European Union’s executive were close to an agreement on the terms of a bailout for Air France.

The expected deal would see Air France give up fewer airport flight slots at its Paris base than initially sought by the European Commission, notably at Orly airport, the newspaper had said.

The Air France-KLM group recorded a 7.1 billion euro ($8.38 billion) net loss for last year.

It received 10.4 billion euros in loans and guarantees from France and the Netherlands and has been negotiating a state-backed recapitalisation, with EU regulators seeking airport slot concessions at Paris-Orly and Amsterdam-Schiphol.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Alex Richardson and Louise Heavens)

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