The Belgian region of Wallonia is looking at buying a stake in TNT Airways to retain the cargo carrier’s European status and safeguard operations following the 5.16 billion-euro ($6.3 billion) purchase of parent TNT Express NV (TNTE) by United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS:US), a union official said.
Employee representatives have proposed the investment to Jean-Claude Marcourt, economy minister for Wallonia, where TNT Airways’ Liege cargo hub is located, SETCA union permanent secretary Marc Sparmont said today in a telephone interview.
The acquisition of Hoofddorp, Netherlands-based TNT by UPS, which has its headquarters in Atlanta, calls into question the future of TNT Air, since companies from outside the European Union may not hold stakes above 49 percent in carriers based in EU countries. The airline could retain its operating license were majority ownership to remain in local hands.
At a meeting with labor representatives, Marcourt told the union he was “open to the proposal,” Sparmont said, adding that a third-party financial investor would most likely also buy a stake to ensure a European majority.
“It would be a way for UPS to retain control, albeit not direct control,” he said.
Ernst Moeksis, a TNT spokesman, declined to comment on the future of the unit, saying it’s still being evaluated, while UPS spokesman Anton van der Lande couldn’t be reached.
Nathalie Lafontaine, a spokeswoman for Marcourt, said in an e-mailed response that she was unaware of the issue. The Belgian transport ministry didn’t immediately return phone calls.
UPS said July 13 it expects to complete the takeover of TNT in the fourth quarter, with EU antitrust regulators likely to carry out a full examination of the deal.
TNT Express’s Liege operations comprise the airline, which primarily handles cargo, and a sorting facility. UPS uses Germany’s Cologne-Bonn Airport, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) away, as the fulcrum of its European air cargo operations.
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