French St. Martin takes over Air Antilles

September 29, 2023 6:04 pm

~ Unique in the aviation world: two countries on one small island; each owning their own airline company ~

French St. Martin -- In a significant development for the island of St. Martin, a new airline is set to take flight following the partial takeover of Air Antilles. On Friday morning at 8am, the Pointe-à-Pitre commercial court approved the partial acquisition of Air Antilles by CIPIM, a holding company of the Edéis group, in alliance with the Collectivity of Saint-Martin.

This takeover does not include the activities operated under the name Air Guyane, specifically serving isolated areas in the Amazon of the overseas territory, which is now in the process of liquidation. Air Antilles and Air Guyane were previously part of the Interregional Express Airline (Cairo), which itself entered liquidation earlier in August.

However, this decision by the commercial court comes with the unfortunate consequence of 176 layoffs from a workforce of 300 employees.

The Collectivity of Saint-Martin (COM) and EDEIS emerged as the successful buyers of Air Antilles in the eyes of the Pointe-à-Pitre Commercial Court. This decision followed the judicial liquidation of the Caire group, which was the parent company of Air Antilles and Air Guyane. Notably, five takeover offers were submitted, and the court considered factors such as the group's seriousness, expertise, and credibility in reaching its decision in favor of the COM Saint-Martin group and EDEIS.

The chosen project aims to achieve two primary objectives: ensuring the continuity of Air Antilles' operations and promoting the accessibility of the region's territories for the benefit of their residents.

The COM/EDEIS consortium has constructed an offer that includes the takeover of 120 employees, immediate acquisition of four airplanes, with plans for a fifth in the near future, and a focus on routes connecting the deserted territories of the French Antilles. This network will span from Pointe-à-Pitre to Fort-de-France, Saint-Martin Grand-Case, Saint-Barthélemy, and will also see the creation of a local mixed economy company named New Air Antilles. The capital for this venture will amount to 2 million euros, with a 60% stake owned by the Collectivity of Saint-Martin and the remaining 40% by EDEIS.

The COM and EDEIS, which already manages overseas airports in Saint-Martin and Mayotte, are reinforcing their role in regional mobility to serve the populations of the Antilles.

Louis Mussington, President of the Collectivity of Saint-Martin, expressed his satisfaction with the court's decision, stating, "We are resolutely part of an innovative logic of action and public policies, serving territorial development, territorial continuity, and cooperation in our region."

He added, "Today, I would like to reassure employees, users of our lines, and our partners; we will do everything we can to restore dialogue and trust. It's in all of our interests."

Jean-Luc Schnoebelen, President of Edeis, emphasized the responsibility that comes with taking over Air Antilles and the commitment to providing an accessible and adapted transport service for West Indians, vital for the development of their territories.

This historic takeover leaves the island of St. Martin in a unique position with two governments, Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin, now owning two airlines, marking a first of its kind in the world.

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