LAN announced it will seek another partner or explore other options to expand internationally if a Chilean antitrust tribunal rules against its planned merger with Brazil’s TAM (Reuters, 28-May-2011). The proposed merger would create Latin America’s largest carrier and is currently under review from Chile’s antitrust regulator. If the antitrust body rules against the merger, LAN will look for a “second best” partner. “We could start conversations with Gol, although that company may not be available and its international reach is not comparable to TAM’s,” stated LAN COO, Ignacio Cueto.
LAN will seek another partner if TAM deal fails
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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.
Struggling Brazilian LCC Gol places its financial fate in the hands of bondholders
Brazil’s political unrest and severe economic deterioration have essentially closed off credit markets to companies based in the country. One of its largest airlines, Gol, was fighting losses as Brazil’s economy started its slow downward trajectory, beginning in 2012. By mid-2015 Gol was forced to undertake a restructuring that included equity injections, renegotiating with suppliers, and, more recently, an attempt to restructure unsecured bonds, which the company stresses is crucial for completing all the facets of its restructuring.
Aside from attempting to create a reasonable financial foundation to weather the economic crisis, Gol continues to cut its capacity and has suspended eight routes in its network. However, Gol argues that its smaller Brazilian competitors have continued to expand their capacity, which has offset the benefits of capacity reductions undertaken by Brazil’s largest airlines – TAM and Gol.
Gol has suffered on all fronts from Brazil’s economic crisis, which shows no signs of improving for at least two more years. It is tough to predict the composition of Brazil’s aviation industry at that time, but Gol, with some help from its partner Delta, is working feverishly to ensure that it retains its leadership position in the market once the recovery begins.