Unions fear Qatar move on Cargolux


Unions at Cargolux fear that the Luxembourg-based cargo airline could fall under Qatari control in a proposed recapitalisation move.

Qatar Airways acquired a 35% stake in the cargo airline, currently 65%-owned by the Luxembourg state, in September 2011. 

“We are likely to know more about the recapitalisation tomorrow [11 October] following a meeting of Cargolux’s management committee and board,” OGBL union spokesman on aviation affairs Hubert Hollerich told Lloyd’s Loading List.com.

A cash injection of €750 million, spread over a three- to four-year period, has been mooted in the Luxembourg media. 

“In our view, the Qatari investors in Cargolux will seize the opportunity to push for a majority stake in the airline, and we have written to the Luxembourg government to demand that the state keeps its controlling stake,” said Hollerich. 

“We are not against recapitalisation, but we want the state to re-inforce its shareholding in the company through it,” he added. 

The OGBL is also unhappy at recent comments to the union and the press by Cargolux’s interim CEO, Richard Forson, on the possibility of relocating the cargo carrier’s aircraft maintenance activities to the Middle East as part of cost-cutting measures. 

“Is it a co-incidence that a large hangar facility is opening in Doha later this year?” asked Hollerich. “Cargolux’s aircraft maintenance employs 450 staff. There would be a massive impact on jobs.” 

Forson also told the union that a number of other projects were being explored as part of a strategic review, including the outsourcing of the Flight Crew department and the re-registering of Cargolux’s aircraft in Qatar, Hollerich said. 

“While nothing has been decided on these ’options’ at this stage, it is very worrying that those at the top at Cargolux atre thinking in this direction."

Tomorrow’s board meeting is also set to consider whether to offer the CEO job to Forson – also the carrier’s CFO – on a permanent basis. He has occupied the post since August following the departure of Frank Reimen who quit to take up a Luxembourg government post.

No one at Cargolux was available to comment on the union’s claims or on the possible recapitalisation. 

In March, Cargolux Chairman Albert Wildgen revealed to Lloyd’s Loading List.com that if the level of losses the carrier made in the early months of 2012 was prolonged, recapitalisation would be required. 

But Cargolux has declined to disclose information on its operating results since then.