MaltaToday previous editions

MALTATODAY 13 December 2020

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 1 of 51

2 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 13 DECEMBER 2020 NEWS Delivery fee of just €1 per day for orders up to 5 newspapers per address To subscribe 1. Email us your choice of newspapers, recipient's name, address, contact number to production 2. Forward cheques payable to Miller Distributors Ltd on address: Miller House, Airport Way, Tarxien Road, Luqa LQA1814 Queries on other news- papers and magazines, production@ maltatoday Same-day delivery of your favourite Sunday newspaper Monday-Friday MaltaToday Midweek • €1 BusinessToday • €1.50 Sunday MaltaToday • €1.95 ILLUM • €1.25 Support your favourite newspaper with a subscription New executive chairman for Air Malta MATTHEW VELLA FINANCE minister Clyde Caru- ana will be appointing David G. Curmi as new executive chairman of Air Malta. The airline was passed under the portfolio of the new finance minister in Robert Abela's recent reshuffle, removing it from under economy minister Silvio Schem- bri. Curmi is a financial services pro- fessional and corporate executive, serving as Chief Executive Officer of MAPFRE MSV Life plc, and sits on the boards of a number of list- ed companies including MAPFRE Middlesea plc, MIDI plc and Plaza Centres plc. Curmi, who was also a former president of the Chamber of Commerce, will be replacing the former Labour MP Charles Man- gion in his role as executive chair- man. A finance ministry spokesman confirmed the decision but would not divulge any details, stating that Curmi's pay package would be "far less" than the remunera- tion for previous Air Malta CEO Clifford Chetcuti. Curmi will have the daunting task of ensuring that the ailing national airline, which entered COVID-19 with losses running into the millions, will be eligible for state aid under EU rules. Under EU rules, state aid is strictly only possible for airlines which registered losses due to the pandemic. Curmi's appointment also comes at a time when many pilots have lost their job at Air Malta and flights and connectivity has been reduced to a trickle. In April, Mal- taToday reported that the airline was bracing itself for a loss of €130 million, of which €30 million in- cluded ticket refunds from COV- ID-19 cancellations. Air Malta has so far refrained from publishing its accounts for the financial year ending 2019, with over eight months elapsing since the national airline's annual appointment with the press. The national airline usually pub- lishes its annual figures in April. The Maltese government could be playing for time ahead of an official request from Brussels for a substantial state aid injection for the airline. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will allow the government to state its case, even though Air Malta itself has not yet resolved its own opera- tional issues. If Air Malta was insolvent before COVID-19 hit, it might not quali- fy for State aid. Way back in February, despite structural reforms and new acqui- sitions for both aircraft and flight management software, Air Malta still suffered the brunt of reduced air travel to Mediterranean des- tinations like Tunisia, as well as from the price of oil. In 2019, auditors Pricewater- houseCoopers noted "proposed transactions" in Air Malta's busi- ness plan would "give rise to fund- ing that meets liquidity require- ments". While in 2017, the company re- ported operating losses of €10.8 million, the airline registered a small €1.2 million profit, prior to restructuring costs. But this was down to clever book entries that allow the Maltese gov- ernment to inject more cash in the airline. Under state aid rules, Air Malta can no longer use tax- payers' cash after the €200 million restructuring programme of 2012. So in 2018, the airline revalued its properties upwards, which gave it a €16 million boost and pad €223 million in accumulated losses from previous years. The real money-spinner for Air Malta however were the millions paid by the Maltese government to buy the airline's landing rights at London Heathrow and Gat- wick airports. To do this, the gov- ernment created a company to acquire the slots and then lease them back to the airline. Those landing rights were given a speculative value of €33.8 mil- lion just for the summer alone. The same was expected to hap- pen in the financial year ending March 2019, which accounts are not yet published, where the win- ter slots would be valued at €22.8 million. David C. Curmi

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of MaltaToday previous editions - MALTATODAY 13 December 2020