SAS airline 'fighting for survival', CEO says as shares plunge

Stockholm (AFP) – Stocks in Scandinavian airline SAS tumbled on Monday after its chief executive said the company was fighting for its survival and must cut costs.

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"When I see what the market looks like today, how our clients are changing, and the size of our debt, it's absolutely clear that we have to do things very differently," Anko Van der Werff, who took over as CEO in July, told Danish business newspaper Finans late Sunday.

"It is a fight to change SAS so that we have a future."

SAS is currently facing several problems, including a permanent drop in business travel and costly collective labour agreements, he said.

Van der Werff said he had summoned the main unions for three months of negotiations aimed at cutting costs and increasing flexibility.

"This requires understanding and willingness from everyone... SAS needs to be competitive so we can survive, grow, and create jobs," he said.

In early afternoon trading on Monday, the SAS share price had lost 14 percent on the Stockholm stock exchange.

The ailing airline cut 5,000 jobs last year -- representing 40 percent of its workforce -- and announced in May this year a credit line of three billion kronor ($350 million) from the Danish and Swedish governments, its main shareholders, to get through the crisis.

That aid came on top of a first line of credit for the same amount and a capital increase in 2020.