On Monday afternoon, the 14th of January 2002, the 2 chairmen of Air Holding NV/SA, planning to take over Sabena's subsidiary DAT on request of the Belgian government in an effort to create a new Belgian flagcarrier, gave what they caled a final press conference to tell the public that all 53 SIC creditors should now within 24 hours make up their mind about whether or not they'd accept the Lippens-Davignon plan on SIC and thus DAT/New Sabena.
The plan basically involves that DAT is cleared from all its depts (109 million euro) with Sabena's internal bank SIC. The SIC depts towards DAT however would be paid as planned, meening that DAT would receive 50 million euro of cash. As SIC is virtually bankrupt but no longer court protected, all creditors have to agree to this cash transfer, if not the Lippens-Davignon plan with DAT can not go ahead as the 50 million euro from SIC are undispensable in their plan.
For the SIC creditors the problem was not so much that they have to remit 59 milion euro uncovered dept (widely considered as lost), but that they'd also have to refrein from taking what is left in SIC (i.e. 50 million euro) only in return for shares in the new airline.
As a consequence of the press conference a few hours earlier, 53 representatives met in the Rue de Brederode in Brussels, were the lawyers of SIC have their offices. The aim was to see whether they could finalize a deal or if the New Sabena project would have to be abandonned all together.
Changes are at that stage 50/50.
The meeting started at around 1800 and quickly it became obvious that the receiver of Sabena was needed to give a good insight in the financial aspects of possible decisions, so Mr. Van Buggenhout arrived at around 1900.
At around 1930 it was clear 51 out of 53 creditors agreed to the plan, but there were 2 problem cases, a Japanees bank and a British public credit insurance company. Both felt they had to give up too much (i.e. a guaranteed immediate pay out of only slightly less then 50% of their depts with the cash SIC still has on the bank) merely in return for shares in a company from which the profitability is not 100% assured.
Negociations continued, but at 2030 it seemed a deadlock had been reached and while pizza's were ordered by phone, Mr Davignon was secretly informed about the problems. He decided to come to the meeting himself and while in the car opened up his highly reputated phone book to put some pressure on the 2 parties refusing to sign a deal.
He first called the Belgian ambassabor to London to ask him to make sure the British credit insurance company accepts the plan which is of high national importance. He then called the Japanees ambassabor to Belgium with the same message. The very good relations between the Imperial Japanees family and the Belgian Royal family did not even briefly need to be mentioned.
At 2130 Mr Davignon arrived at the Rue de Brederode and although some creditors were surprised to see Mr Davignon show up, discussions continued.
At 2145 the representative of the British credit insurance company got a for him highly unexpected phone call from the British ambassabor in Belgium saying that it would be highly appreciated by the government back in London if his company would not block the Belgian plans. The man, not really knowing what is going on here, made a few more phone calls to his head office in the UK and there they told him they had been trying to reach him for the last 15 minutes after his CEO called in to tell that he had changed his attitude towards the SIC plan. As far as this vote is concerned the problem was cleared; a vote would now show 52 out of 53 in favour of the plan. That only left the Japanees to deal with. Negociations continued for many hours and at 0400 Mr Davignon told the Japanees representative the proposals were now to take or to leave. The man said that as far as he is concerned he would leave it although he promised to talk about it to the chairman of his bank first thing in the morning.
Everybody went home to get some sleep and while most of the creditors spent time in bed thinking it was all over, Mr Davignon got a phonecall from the Japanees ambassador to Belgium. His excellency told him he had very good news for the country; although the representative of the Japanees bank did not know it yet, the government in Tokyo had successfully put pressure on the chairman of the bank to accept the plan! By then it was around 0500 in the morning and with 53 votes out of 53 a deal was struck and New Sabena was born!