- Passenger traffic (RPKs):
- Load factor:
Brazil's domestic pax traffic up 7% in Nov-2012, int'l pax traffic up 3%
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Latin American airlines work to attract investors. Ownership laws a hindrance in tough economics
Economic and political upheaval in Brazil during the past couple of years has essentially isolated many of the country’s companies, including airlines, from credit markets. Some of the country’s legislators made a bold move earlier in 2016 to lift all foreign ownership restrictions on airlines; but that specific element of legislation was vetoed by the country’s interim government in order ensure other pieces of a larger bill were ratified.
The push for 100% foreign ownership still appears to have some momentum in Brazil’s uncertain political climate. The country’s transportation minister has reportedly stated that the debate over foreign ownership is not over, and he aims to push for re-opening the discussion about ownership caps in the country’s Senate.
In the meantime, Brazil’s 20% foreign ownership cap remains at status quo in a fast-changing Latin American aviation landscape where Avianca is courting foreign investors and Qatar has just tabled its plans to take a 10% share in LATAM. It would be an unprecedented move for Brazil to allow for 100% foreign ownership of its airlines but raising the cap to 49% seems reasonable, and could possibly help Brazil’s largest airline Gol as it works to restructure billions in debt. But changes in ownership laws may not result in investors flocking to Gol when other Latin American airlines offer less risk to investors.
Qatar Airways buys 10% of oneworld's LATAM, to add to its 15% in IAG
Enter Qatar Airways. As Etihad Airways looks to bed down its investments in other airlines, Qatar is gradually expanding its airline investment portfolio. Qatar's 15% stake in IAG is now being followed with a 10% stake in LATAM for USD613 million – nearly 1.5 times Qatar's net profit of USD446 million, disclosed (for the first time) on the day prior to the LATAM equity announcement. It is a safe investment; LATAM group has a strong market position and its share price has remained strong even in the face of a brutal downturn in Latin American economies.
Qatar gives LATAM needed cash and a distant shareholder. Latin America is the smallest market by far for Gulf airlines, but while currently in the economic doldrums, has a longer term potential for growth. It is also a key future market for US airlines, albeit very small on the Gulf airlines' networks. Qatar is spending nearly EUR2.5 billion on equity investments, still smaller than Etihad's but illustrating a willingness to acquire airline assets, for investment and strategic reasons. In this case the immediate strategic purpose for Qatar is less apparent.
Star Alliance's privately owned Avianca is also considering a strategic shareholder; that would mean five of Latin America's eight largest airline groups could have an airline investor from outside the region.