March 16, 2020 / 3:41 PM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 1-Tunisair to lose $24.6 million this month, CEO says

(Adds background, details)

TUNIS, March 16 (Reuters) - Tunisia’s national carrier Tunisair is expected to lose 70 million dinars ($24.6 million) in March and 80 million dinars in April due to the coronavirus, Chief Executive Elyes Mankbi told Reuters on Monday.

Tunisia has already announced many restrictions on air travel to regions affected by the coronavirus, including some of Tunisair’s busiest destinations in Europe and North Africa.

State-owned Tunisair has already been losing money every year since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, prompting urgent demands in parliament for it to be restructured.

Its loss in 2017, the last year for which there is official data, was 226 million dinars, and its loss in 2016 was 165 million dinars.

Mankbi has previously said the company needs more planes, less onerous state regulation of its procurement processes, a big staff reduction and other measures. Restructuring would cost 1.3 billion dinars ($456 million), he has said.

Tunisia’s state-owned enterprises took on very large numbers of new employees after the revolution but their performance has declined, leading to big losses and adding to the growing public debt.

International lenders are seeking big reforms to the state-owned companies, including Tunisair, but job losses are opposed by the country’s powerful labour union.

Reporting By Tarek Amara; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Alex Richardson and Jane Merriman

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