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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 18:19 GMT
Air traffic bailout confirmed
New air traffic control centre at Swanwick
Nats has been hit by the post-11 September downturn
Transport Secretary Stephen Byers has confirmed that the bailout of National Air Traffic Services (Nats) will include 30m of public money and a 30m bank loan.

Nats ran into financial difficulties after the 11 September attacks on the US, which caused a slump in trans-Atlantic traffic from which it makes about 44% of its income.

But the part-privatisation has been criticised as flawed from its outset and needs a cash boost to stabilise its finances.

The public money - a short-term loan - will complement a similar 30m being lent to Nats by the banks which underwrote the part-sale of Nats last summer.

News of the 60m prop-up for Nats first broke last month after reports that Nats' financial crisis had prompted the banks to threaten to foreclose on their loans to newly-privatised company.

Bitter opposition

The loan will cover the period to 30 September.

Mr Byers said that the loan's purpose was "to relieve Nats' cash-flow position until arrangements are put in place to secure the long-term financial stability of the company following the unprecedented events of September 11".

The Airline Group - which includes British Airways and Virgin Atlantic - took a 46% stake in Nats last summer, with Nats' employees taking 5% and the government retaining the other 49%.

Backbench MPs and unions bitterly opposed the sell-off.

The banks involved in the loan are Abbey National, Barclays Capital, Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) and Bank of America.

See also:

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