Mergers and Consolidation
893 total articles
166 total articles
The saga that ensued after the US Department of Justice in Aug-2013 sued to block the merger between American Airlines and US Airways is now officially over. Arguably, not too much will change once the conditions of the settlement are implemented - which begs the question of why the two sides did not act more responsibly in the first place to prevent a protracted and futile legal exercise that only added extra expense to the already expensive proposition of combining two airlines.
The whole affair smacks of wasteful macho grandstanding. In the end, only limited concessions were imposed - but presumably the airlines had not been prepared to concede them in negotiations - and nobody comes out of this looking clever.
The bulk of the concessions agreed to by American and US Airways – slot divestment at Washington National Airport – was not surprising since speculation was rampant that the carriers would likely have to shed some slots at the airport in order to move forward. While American and US Airways opted to stick to their bullishness that no divestment was necessary, in the end holding stubborn to their beliefs resulted in a three month delay of the merger moving forward – hardly responsible behaviour for a company that is attempting to build a powerful global carrier.
US Airways believes it can recoup lost revenue triggered by a 16 day US Government shut-down after recording reasonably solid 3Q2013 results, including higher than expected unit revenues for the three months ending 30-Sept-2013.
As the outcome of the US Department of Justice (DoJ) challenge to block the merger of American Airlines and US Airways is tough to predict, both carriers are moving forward in network expansion on a stand-alone basis. For US Airways it means international expansion from its Charlotte hub as a means to close the gap in a variable financial performance from 2Q to 3Q, while American appears to be crafting a Pacific strategy that entails a build-up in Dallas/Fort Worth to strengthen its position in the trans-Pacific against United and Delta.
On 9-Oct-2013, the European Commission (EC) approved the acquisition of loss-making Olympic Air by loss-making Aegean Airlines. Although a previously proposed merger of the two was blocked by the Commission in early 2011, its analysis now indicates that Olympic would go broke in the near future if it were not acquired by Aegean.
This would leave Aegean as Greece’s only significant domestic carrier. The EC argues that the competition provided by Olympic on domestic routes would disappear regardless of the acquisition. It concluded that any competitive harm caused by the removal of Olympic as an independent competitor is not caused by the merger, which “is compatible with the internal market and must be authorised.”
This raises some interesting questions. For example, why did the EC not give fuller consideration to the possibility that new entrants might fill the gap left by Olympic? And why is Aegean paying EUR72 million for a loss-maker that the EC says is “highly unlikely to become profitable in the foreseeable future under any business plan”?
European airline margins have underperformed other regions for years. There are many reasons for this, but our analysis suggests that Europe’s relative lack of consolidation may be a significant one, since margins appear to be correlated with market concentration. Even after a number of significant deals over the past decade, the European market is less concentrated than North America, where consolidation has gone further, to the benefit of margins. Europe is also less concentrated than Asia-Pacific (analysed as its sub-regions), whose margins have consistently been the highest.
If consolidation brings structural benefits, are there still European deals that can make a difference? Europe has a long tail of small carriers, which are unlikely to have a significant impact, but comparison with North America points to the potential for further combinations among the top five. Nevertheless, there are hurdles to such deals, not least of which are the ongoing restructuring programmes at Europe’s Big Three and the incompatibility of LCC/FSC mergers, but some second tier groups could be targets.
African airlines are calling for greater unity among themselves to better compete against much bigger foreign airlines in their own skies and for African governments to liberalise the continent’s air space.
Kenya Airways believes a merger between itself, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways is necessary to create a single large carrier representing Africa and able to compete globally. And Africa’s numerous regional airlines are looking to these three big carriers to support their growth and improve the industry’s safety performance on the continent.
But first, protective governments need to be persuaded of the benefits of open skies, while smaller carriers fear for the futures if big carriers are given greater freedoms.
Poland’s LOT and Turkish Airlines highlight Eastern European flag carriers investor/seller shortfall
Several Eastern European flag carriers are clearly struggling as competition in their markets, particularly from low-cost carriers, continues to increase, threatening their survival as independent entities. Many of these carriers are reliant on regular capital injections from their respective governments simply to maintain operations. In an effort to ensure their long-term survival and a more sustainable future, several are seeking to secure strategic partners in 2012.
Being acquired by, or partnering with, larger airlines from Turkey and the Middle East is proving to be the most likely of scenarios for these Eastern European operators as Western European airline groups are attempting to reduce expenditure significantly in 2012. While Turkish Airlines and the three major Gulf carriers have the cash and interest to pursue investments in Eastern European carriers in 2012, such investments do not appear to be on the radar at all for Western airlines.