Your correspondent has just spent 3 weeks in Hainan, where everybody is talking about the problems of its biggest company, Hainan Airlines or HNA. They are facing a severe financial crisis without any solution in sight.
What has that got to do with Helsinki Airport? The answer is that it has a lot to do with Helsinki Airport.
It has often been noted that Helsinki Airport has become one of the worst airports for passengers. They are huddled into narrow spaces like cattle without chairs at the gates.
The aisles have been made to be narrow and longer because “Duty Free Shops” (an expression that now means “silly expensive shops”) have been allowed to expand their presence and control the flow of people around long shelves of perfume, tobacco and chocolates. They are allowed to sell water that is 5 times more expensive than ordinary shops, in a country that prides itself on having the cleanest tap water in the world!
And all this is brought to you by the Transport Minister, Ms. Berner, who thinks that Dufry’s, the Swiss company that runs the “Duty Free” shops is better than any Finnish retailer. HNA is a big shareholder of Dufry’s.
The airport also employs Swissport for baggage and cargo handling, he de-icing of aircraft and many other important tasks at the airport. That sounds like a Swiss company…
Minister Berner can be forgiven for loving Swissport and Dufry’s because she too is a Swiss citizen, and also a Finnish one but only after being appointed as Transport Minister!
Now the only minor problem is that Swissport is a Chinese-owned company, and the same owner, HNA, also owns a big share of Dufry’s…
… and just in case you did not know, HNA is a company that has USD40 billion in debt and is in trouble because it does not have sufficient liquidity to repay all its loans back on time and investors are really worried.
So if HNA goes down the drain, then Helsinki Airport will be in a right mess!
But do not worry, the Minister has her steady hand on Finavia, which is the government’s company that manages Helsinki Airport. She will blame the management there for making any mistakes in choosing HNA and their companies by saying “they just did note tell me…”
Finavia will then lose a lot of money again, like the €34 million losses on bad interest rate speculation, and the board will be change. Chaotic life under her management will then continue until the next election.