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France

Air France-KLM shares plunge after Dutch buy stake

media Air France and KLM merged in 2004 REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Shares in Air France-KLM plummeted on Wednesday, a day after the Dutch government announced it was buying a stake in the airline in a bid to match the French state's influence.

"With this share purchase, the Dutch cabinet wants to be able to directly influence the future development of Air France-KLM in order to optimally ensure the Dutch public interest," Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Tuesday.

"The aim is to eventually get to a position equal to that of the French state," Hoekstra added. France has a 14.3 per cent stake.

The surprise Dutch purchase of the 12.68 per cent share stunned Paris, with Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire saying the Dutch government had not informed France.

"It is essential to respect the principles of good governance and for Air France-KLM to be managed... without state interference," Le Maire told the French newspaper Les Echos.

The move threatens to reignite tensions after a bitter dispute earlier this year about the fate of the chief executive of the group's Dutch arm, and concerns over a series of strikes in France last year.

Air France and KLM merged in 2004 but continue to operate largely separately,

Despite the recent upheaval, Air France-KLM reported last week that its annual net profits rose by 150 per cent to 409 million euros.

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